William Melvin Bill Hicks, December 16, 1961 – February 26, 1994, was one of the greatest comedians of all time. A controversial comic, he was deemed as a cult icon in the U.S and had a huge following in the United Kingdom. His incredible insight on society, mainstream beliefs and political hypocrisy is still relevant today.
All quotes are from Bill unless stated otherwise.
"On December 16, 1961, the world turned upside down and inside out, and I was born screaming, in America."
Bill was born in Valdosta, Georgia. His family (Jim and Mary, with older siblings Lynn and Steve) moved around a few times before settling in Houston, Texas. Bill began writing and experimenting with comedy from an early age, his older brother Steve was very supportive of him. As a teenager, Bill would regularly sneak out on school nights to perform at The Comedy Workshop in Houston.
In 1987, Bill appeared on Rodney Dangerfield's Young Comedian Special. Bill also moved to New York and began to perform full time for the next five years.
In 1988 Bill was signed by his first professional manager, Jack Mondus. It was also the year he quit drinking.
Over the years Bill began to release videos and albums of his work.
In 1990 he performed in Londons West-End, and was such a hit in the U.K that he continued to tour there in 1991.
In 1993 the metal band 'Tool' invited Bill to open a number of their concerts during Lollapalooza.
The following is a list of Bills' album releases:
Arizona Bay (1997)
Rant in E-Minor (1997)
Philosophy: The Best of Bill Hicks (2001)
Love, Laughter and Truth (2002)
Flying Saucer Tour Vol. 1 (2002)
Shock and Awe (2003)
Here are his Video/DVDs:
Sane Man (VHS: 1989; DVD: 2005) (DVD remastered and completely uncut)
One Night Stand (VHS: 1991; DVD: 2002)
Ninja Bachelor Party (VHS: 1991; DVD: 2010, in The Essential Collection)
Relentless (VHS: 1992; DVD: 2006)
Revelations (VHS: 1993)
American: The Bill Hicks Story (DVD: 2010)
And his compilations:
Totally Bill Hicks (UK only) (VHS: 1994; DVD: 2002) (documentary It's Just a Ride and a live performance, Revelations)
Bill Hicks Live: Satirist, Social Critic, Stand Up Comedian (DVD: 2004) (One Night Stand, Relentless, "It's Just a Ride" and Revelations)
"I saw a sign on the side of the road in Tennessee once that said 'dirt for sale'...what a great country we live in. DIRT for sale. How would you like to get inside that guys mind and look around for a hour? That guy sees opportunity at every glance, doesn't he? It's a big world for this gentleman. 'Oh my god, honey! Honey quit servin' waffles and come here baby. I'm gunna sell dirt! Look it's everywhere. You need it for our planet, honey!' The place was called Land Land." - 'Sane Man'
"Anybody can be a bum; all it takes is the right girl, the right bar and the right friends, and you are well… your buddies will see you off. They'll christen your dumpster for you." - 'Dangerous'
"People say, "Uh-Uh, Bill, Iraq had the fourth-largest army in the world." Yeah, well, maybe, but, you know what? After the first three largest armies there's a really big f*cking drop-off, okay? The Hare Krishnas are the fifth largest army in the world, and they've already got all our airports. So, who is the bigger threat?" - 'Relentless'
You know we armed Iraq. I wondered about that too, you know. During the Persian Gulf war, those intelligence reports would come out: "Iraq: incredible weapons – incredible weapons." "How do you know that?" "Uh, well … we looked at the receipts. But as soon as that check clears, we're goin' in. What time's the bank open? Eight? We're going in at nine. We're going in for God and country and democracy and here's a fetus and he's a Hitler. Whatever you fucking need, let's go. Get motivated behind this, let's go!" - 'Revelations'
"Courtroom for Ted Bundy's trial is packed with women, trying to meet him and give him love letters and wedding-fucking-proposals...and the first thought that enters my mind is, "And I'm not getting laid." What am I doing wrong?" - 'Arizona Bay'
"I'll show you politics in America. Here it is, right here. "I think the puppet on the right shares my beliefs." "I think the puppet on the left is more to my liking." "Hey, wait a minute, there's one guy holding out both puppets!" "Shut up! Go back to bed, America. Your government is in control. Here's Love Connection. Watch this and get fat and stupid. By the way, keep drinking beer, you f*cking morons." - 'Rant in E-minor'
It's Just a Ride
"The world is like a ride in an amusement park, and when you choose to go on it you think it's real because that's how powerful our minds are. The ride goes up and down, around and around, it has thrills and chills, and it's very brightly colored, and it's very loud, and it's fun for a while. Many people have been on the ride a long time, and they begin to wonder, "Hey, is this real, or is this just a ride?" And other people have remembered, and they come back to us and say, "Hey, don't worry; don't be afraid, ever, because this is just a ride." And we … kill those people. "Shut him up! I've got a lot invested in this ride, shut him up! Look at my furrows of worry, look at my big bank account, and my family. This has to be real." It's just a ride. But we always kill the good guys who try and tell us that, you ever notice that? And let the demons run amok … But it doesn't matter, because it's just a ride. And we can change it any time we want. It's only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings of money. Just a simple choice, right now, between fear and love. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your doors, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love instead see all of us as one. Here's what we can do to change the world, right now, to a better ride. Take all that money we spend on weapons and defenses each year and instead spend it feeding and clothing and educating the poor of the world, which it would pay for many times over, not one human being excluded, and we could explore space, together, both inner and outer, forever, in peace."
Bill was a lover of great music and would talk in his shows of his disdain for modern safe 'rock stars', who would advertise for Diet Coke and play in malls. So it was almost a natural progression that Bill try out writing and recording music himself. He created an album called 'LO Fi Troubadour' and you can find all the tracks on Youtube by clicking on the links that come up via the video below.
Raised in a Southern Baptist family, his parents beliefs became the subject of a few jokes. Bill also took issue with Christians, Creationists in particular. Due to this, many think that Bill was an atheist, but this is incorrect. Bill was very spiritual, he would practice yoga, transcendental meditation, use sensory deprivation tanks. He believed that God was within us, but not the organized religion version of God and that there was no need for a middle man.
"I'm sorry if any of you are Catholic. I'm not sorry if you're offended, I'm actually just sorry by the fact that you're Catholic."
"Lots of Christians wear crosses around their necks … you really think when Jesus comes back, he ever wants to see a f*cking cross?"
"You ever notice that people who believe in creationism look really unevolved? Eyes real close together, big furry hands and feet. "I believe God created me in one day." Yeah, looks like he rushed it."
""God put [dinosaur fossils] here to test our faith!" … I think God put you here to test my faith, dude. Does that bother anybody else, the idea that God might be fucking with our heads? I have trouble sleeping with that knowledge. Some prankster God runnin' around, [pantomimes digging] "We'll see who believes in me now. I am the Prankster God – I am killing me!"
After Hicks quit drinking he began to experiment with recreational drugs and he would use his experiences in later acts. He was an advocate of legalizing marijuana.
“Why is marijuana against the law? It grows naturally upon our planet. Doesn’t the idea of making nature against the law seem to you a bit . . . unnatural?”
“They lie about marijuana. Tell you pot-smoking makes you unmotivated. Lie! When you're high, you can do everything you normally do just as well — you just realize that it's not worth the f*cking effort. There is a difference.”
Bill also experimented with hallucinogenics, such as LSD and psilocybin mushrooms.
"If you don't think drugs have done good things for us, then take all of your records, tapes and CD's and burn them."
“Today a young man on acid realized that all matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration, that we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively, there is no such thing as death, life is only a dream, and we are the imagination of ourselves. Here's Tom with the Weather.”
"I know this is not a very popular idea. You don't hear it too often any more … but it's the truth. I have taken drugs before and … I had a real good time. Sorry. Didn't murder anybody, didn't rape anybody, didn't rob anybody, didn't beat anybody, didn't lose – hmm – one f*cking job, laughed my ass off, and went about my day. Sorry. Now, where's my commercial?"
Bill was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer on the 16th of June, 1993. He kept his illness secret from the public, telling only close friends and family, and kept touring. He performed his last gig on the 6th of January 1994 and moved back to his parents house in Arkansas. Bill said goodbye to all his friends and stopped speaking on the 14th of February. His last words were "I've said all I have to say,". He died on the 26th of February, 1994. He was 32.
"I left in love, in laughter, and in truth and wherever truth, love and laughter abide, I am there in spirit."