Bill Hicks
Bill Hicks

William Melvin Hicks (December 16, 1961 – February 26, 1994) was an American humorist, social critic, satirist, and musician. His materials—encompassing a variety of social points together with faith, politics, and philosophy—was controversial and infrequently steeped in darkish comedy.

On the age of 16, whereas nonetheless in highschool, Hicks started performing on the Comedy Workshop in Houston, Texas. Through the Eighties, he toured the U.S. extensively and made a variety of high-profile tv appearances, but it surely was within the UK that he amassed a big fan base, filling massive venues throughout his 1991 tour.[1] He additionally achieved some recognition as a guitarist and songwriter.

Hicks died of pancreatic most cancers on February 26, 1994, on the age of 32. In subsequent years, his work gained vital acclaim in artistic circles—notably after a collection of posthumous album releases—and he developed a considerable cult following. In 2007, he was No. 6 on Channel 4’s record of the “100 Biggest Stand-Up Comics”,[2] and rose to No. 4 on the 2010 record.[3] In 2017, Rolling Stone journal ranked him No. 13 on its record of the 50 greatest stand-up comics of all time.[4]


Hicks was born in Valdosta, Georgia, the son of James Melvin “Jim” Hicks (1923–2006) and Mary Reese Hicks. He had an older sister, Lynn, and an older brother, Steve. The household lived in Alabama, Florida, and New Jersey earlier than settling in Houston, Texas when Hicks was seven years outdated.[5] He was drawn to comedy at an early age, emulating Woody Allen and Richard Pryor, and would write routines along with his pal Dwight Slade. Whereas attending Stratford Excessive Faculty,[6] he started performing comedy (largely derivations of Woody Allen materials) for his classmates.[7] At dwelling, he would write his personal one-liners and slide them beneath the bed room door of Steve, who he thought was a genius, for vital evaluation. Steve informed him, “Stick with it. You are actually good at this.”[8]

Early on, Hicks started to mock his household’s Southern Baptist spiritual beliefs. He joked to the Houston Put up in 1987, “We have been Yuppie Baptists. We fearful about issues like, ‘When you scratch your neighbor’s Subaru, do you have to depart a be aware?'”[9] Biographer Cynthia True described a typical argument along with his father:

The elder Hicks would say, “I consider that the Bible is the literal phrase of God.” And Invoice would counter, “No it is not, Dad.” “Effectively, I consider that it’s.” “Effectively,” Invoice replied, “you already know, some individuals consider that they are Napoleon. That is high-quality. Beliefs are neat. Cherish them, however do not share them like they’re the reality.”[10]

Nonetheless, he was shut along with his household his complete life and he didn’t reject religious ideology itself, and all through his life he sought varied various strategies of experiencing it. Kevin Slade, elder brother of Dwight, launched him to Transcendental Meditation and different types of spirituality. Over one Thanksgiving weekend, he took Hicks and Dwight to a Transcendental Meditation residence course in Galveston.[11] Nervous about his rebellious habits, his mother and father took him to a psychoanalyst at age 17. In accordance with Hicks, the analyst took him apart after the primary group session and informed him, “You may proceed coming if you wish to, but it surely’s them, not you.”[5]



Hicks was related to the Texas Outlaw Comics group developed on the Comedy Workshop in Houston within the Eighties.[12][13]

California and New York

By January 1986, Hicks was utilizing leisure medication and his monetary assets had dwindled.[14] Nonetheless his profession acquired one other upturn in 1987, when he appeared on Rodney Dangerfield’s Younger Comedians Particular.[15] The identical 12 months, he moved to New York Metropolis, and for the following 5 years carried out about 300 occasions a 12 months.[16] On the album Relentless, he jokes that he stop utilizing medication as a result of “as soon as you’ve got been taken aboard a UFO, it is type of onerous to high that”, though in his performances, he continued to enthusiastically reward the virtues of LSD, marijuana, and psychedelic mushrooms.[17]

He finally fell again to chain smoking,[18] a theme that will determine closely in his performances from then on. His nicotine habit, love of smoking, and occasional makes an attempt to stop grew to become a recurring theme in his act all through his later years.

In 1988, Hicks signed along with his first skilled enterprise supervisor, Jack Mondrus.[19]

On the observe “Trendy Bummer” of his 1990 album Harmful, Hicks says he stop consuming alcohol in 1988.

In 1989, he launched his first video, Sane Man; a remastered model with half-hour of additional footage was launched in 1999.[20]

Early fame

Hicks on the Laff Cease in 1991

In 1990, Hicks launched his first album, Harmful, carried out on the HBO particular One Night time Stand, and carried out at Montreal’s Only for Laughs competition.[14] He was additionally a part of a gaggle of American stand-up comedians performing in London’s West Finish in November. Hicks was an enormous hit within the UK and Eire and continued touring there all through 1991.[21] That 12 months, he returned to Only for Laughs and filmed his second video, Relentless.

Hicks made a short detour into musical recording with the Marble Head Johnson album in 1992 collaborating with Houston highschool pal Kevin Sales space and Austin Texas drummer Pat Brown. Throughout the identical 12 months he toured the UK, the place he recorded the Revelations video[22] for Channel 4. He closed the present along with his soon-to become-famous philosophy concerning life, “It is Only a Trip.” Additionally in that tour he recorded the stand-up efficiency launched in its entirety on a double CD titled Salvation. Hicks was voted “Scorching Standup Comedian” by Rolling Stone journal in 1993. He moved to Los Angeles in 1992.[citation needed]

Hicks and Device

Progressive steel band Device invited Hicks to open a variety of concert events in its 1993 Lollapalooza appearances, the place Hicks as soon as requested the viewers to search for a contact lens he had misplaced. 1000’s of individuals complied.[23]

Members of Device felt that they and Hicks “have been resonating related ideas”.[24] Intending to lift consciousness about Hicks’s materials and concepts, Device devoted their triple-platinum[25] album Ænima (1996) to Hicks. Each the lenticular casing of the Ænima album packaging in addition to the refrain of the title observe “Ænema” make reference to a sketch from Hicks’s Arizona Bay album, through which he contemplates the thought of Los Angeles falling into the Pacific Ocean. Ænimas closing observe, “Third Eye” accommodates samples from Hicks’s Harmful and Relentless albums.[24][26]

An alternate model of the Ænima paintings reveals a portray of Invoice Hicks, calling him “One other Lifeless Hero”, and mentions of Hicks are discovered each within the liner notes and on the document.[citation needed]

Censorship and aftermath

In 1984, Hicks was invited to look on Late Night time with David Letterman for the primary time. He had a joke that he used often in comedy golf equipment about how he brought on a severe accident that left a classmate utilizing a wheelchair. NBC had a coverage that no handicapped jokes might be aired on the present, making his stand-up routine troublesome to carry out with out mentioning phrases similar to “wheelchair.”[27]

On October 1, 1993, Hicks was scheduled to look on Late Present with David Letterman on CBS, the place Letterman had not too long ago moved. It was his twelfth look on a Letterman late-night present, however his whole efficiency was faraway from the printed: at that time the one event the place a comic’s whole routine was reduce after taping.[28] Hicks’s stand-up routine was faraway from the present, Hicks stated, as a result of Letterman’s producers believed the fabric, which included jokes involving faith and the anti-abortion motion, was unsuitable for broadcast.[28] Producer Robert Morton initially blamed CBS, which denied accountability; Morton later conceded it was his choice.[28] Though Letterman later expressed remorse on the method Hicks had been dealt with, Hicks didn’t seem on the present once more.[28] Hicks was present process chemotherapy on the time of his closing Late Present look, unbeknownst to Letterman, and most others outdoors of Hicks’s household, and died lower than 4 months later.[29]

Letterman lastly aired the censored routine in its entirety on January 30, 2009. Hicks’s mom, Mary, was current within the studio and appeared on-camera as a visitor. Letterman took accountability for the unique choice to take away Hicks’s set from the 1993 present. “It says extra about me as a man than it says about Invoice,” he stated, after the set aired, “as a result of there was completely nothing improper with that”.[30][31]

Denis Leary’s plagiarism

For a few years, Hicks was associates with fellow comic Denis Leary, however in 1993, he was angered by Leary’s album No Treatment for Most cancers, which featured strains and material much like his personal routine.[32] In accordance with American Scream: The Invoice Hicks Story by Cynthia True, upon listening to the album Hicks was livid. “All these years, apart from the occasional jibe, he had just about shrugged off Leary’s lifting. Comedians borrowed, stole stuff, and even purchased bits from each other. Milton Berle and Robin Williams have been well-known for it. This was totally different. Leary had virtually taken line for line big chunks of Invoice’s act and recorded it.”[33] The friendship ended abruptly because of this.[34]

Not less than three stand-up comedians have gone on the document stating they consider Leary stole Hicks’s materials in addition to his persona and perspective.[35][36][37] In an interview, when Hicks was requested why he had stop smoking, he answered, “I simply needed to see if Denis would, too.”[38] In one other interview, Hicks stated, “I’ve a scoop for you. I stole his [Leary’s] act. I camouflaged it with punchlines, and, to actually throw individuals off, I did it earlier than he did.”[39] Throughout a 2003 Comedy Central Roast of Denis Leary, comic Lenny Clarke, a pal of Leary’s, stated there was a carton of cigarettes backstage from Invoice Hicks with the message, “Want I had gotten these to you sooner.” This joke was reduce from the ultimate broadcast.[40]

The controversy surrounding plagiarism can be talked about in American Scream:

Leary was in Montreal internet hosting the “Nasty Present” at Membership Soda, and Colleen [McGarr?] was coordinating the expertise so she stood backstage and overheard Leary doing materials extremely much like outdated Hicks riffs, together with his perennial Jim Fixx joke: “Keith Richards outlived Jim Fixx, the runner and well being nut. The plot thickens.” When Leary got here offstage, Colleen, extra surprised than indignant, stated, “Hey, you already know that is Invoice Hicks’ materials! Are you aware that is his materials?” Leary stood there, stared at her with out saying a phrase, and briskly left the dressing room.[33]

Materials and elegance

Hicks’s efficiency fashion was seen as a play on his viewers’s feelings. He expressed anger, disgust, and apathy whereas addressing the viewers in an informal and private method, which he likened to merely conversing along with his associates. He would invite his audiences to problem authority and the existential nature of “accepted reality.” One such message, which he usually utilized in his reveals, was delivered within the fashion of a information report (with a purpose to draw consideration to the unfavourable slant information organizations give to any story about medication):

Right now, a younger man on acid realized that every one matter is merely power condensed to a gradual vibration—that we’re all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively. There isn’t any such factor as dying, life is barely a dream, and we are the creativeness of ourselves. Here is Tom with the climate.[41]

The American thinker and ethnomycologist Terence McKenna was a frequent supply of Hicks’s most controversial psychedelic and philosophical counter-cultural materials; he infamously acted out an abridged model of McKenna’s “Stoned Ape” mannequin of human evolution as a routine throughout a number of of his closing reveals.[42][43][44]

One other of Hicks’s most delivered strains was delivered throughout a gig in Chicago throughout 1989 (later launched because the bootleg I am Sorry, People). After a heckler repeatedly shouted “Free Hen”, Hicks screamed, “Hitler had the fitting thought; he was simply an underachiever!” Hicks adopted this comment with a misanthropic tirade calling for unbiased genocide throughout the entire of humanity.[45][46]

A lot of Hicks’s routine concerned direct assaults on mainstream society, faith, politics, and consumerism. Requested in a BBC interview why he can’t do a routine that appeals “to everybody”, he stated that such an act was not possible. He responded by repeating a remark that an viewers member as soon as made to him, “We do not come to comedy to assume!”, to which he replied, “Gee, the place do you go to assume? I am going to meet you there!” When requested whether or not there was a “half method” level between viewers expectations and his personal, he stated: “however my method is half-way between, I imply, this can be a night-club, and, you already know, these are adults, and what do you anticipate?”[47] Hicks was strongly in opposition to political correctness, and jokingly acknowledged that the politically appropriate ought to be “hunted down and killed.”[48]

Hicks usually mentioned in style conspiracy theories in his performances, most notably the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. He mocked the Warren Report and the official model of Lee Harvey Oswald as a “lone nut murderer.” He additionally questioned the guilt of David Koresh and the Department Davidian compound throughout the Waco Siege. Hicks would finish a few of his reveals, particularly these being recorded in entrance of bigger audiences as albums, with a mock “assassination” of himself on stage, making gunshot sound results into the microphone whereas falling to the bottom.

Sickness and dying

On June 16, 1993, Hicks was identified with pancreatic most cancers that had unfold to his liver.[49]
He began receiving weekly chemotherapy, whereas nonetheless touring and in addition recording his album, Arizona Bay, with Sales space. He was additionally working with comic Fallon Woodland on a pilot episode of a brand new discuss present, titled Counts of the Netherworld for Channel 4 on the time of his dying. The price range and idea had been authorised, and a pilot was filmed. The Counts of the Netherworld pilot was proven on the varied Tenth Anniversary Tribute Night time occasions world wide on February 26, 2004. After being identified with most cancers, Hicks would usually joke that any given efficiency might be his final; the general public, nevertheless, was unaware of his situation, and just a few shut family and friends members knew of the illness. He carried out the ultimate present of his profession at Caroline’s in New York on January 6, 1994; he moved again to his mother and father’ home in Little Rock, Arkansas, shortly thereafter. In his final weeks he re-read J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings,[50] and made phone calls to associates to say goodbye earlier than he stopped talking on February 14.[51]

Hicks died from the consequences of pancreatic most cancers on February 26, 1994, in Little Rock on the age of 32.[52][53] He was buried within the household grave plot in Magnolia Cemetery, Leakesville, Mississippi.[54]

In early 1995, his household launched a short essay that Hicks had written every week previous to his dying:

I used to be born William Melvin Hicks on December 16, 1961 in Valdosta, Georgia. Ugh. Melvin Hicks from Georgia. Yee Har! I already had gotten off to life on the improper foot. I used to be at all times “awake,” I suppose you’d say. Some a part of me clamoring for brand spanking new insights and new methods to make the world a greater place. All of this got here out years down the road, in my multitude of artistic pursuits which might be the instruments I now carry to the Occasion. Writing, performing, music, comedy. A deep love of literature and books. Thank God for all of the artists who’ve helped me. I might learn these phrases and off I went—dreaming my very own imaginative desires. Exercising them at will, finally to kind bands, comedy, extra bands, films, something artistic. That is the coin of the realm I take advantage of in my phrases—Imaginative and prescient. On June 16, 1993 I used to be identified with having “liver most cancers that had unfold from the pancreas.” One in every of life’s weirdest and worst jokes possible. I might been making such progress not too long ago in my perspective, my profession and realizing my desires that it simply stood me on my head for some time. “Why me!?” I’d cry out, and “Why now!?” Effectively, I do know now there might by no means be any solutions to these specific questions, however possibly in telling a bit of about myself, we will discover another solutions to different questions. Which may assist our method down our personal specific paths, in the direction of realizing my dream of New Hope and New Happiness. Amen. I left in love, in laughter, and in fact and wherever reality, love and laughter abide, I’m there in spirit.[49]


His albums Arizona Bay and Rant in E-Minor have been launched posthumously in 1997 on the Voices imprint of the Rykodisc label. Harmful and Relentless have been re-released concurrently.

In a 2005 ballot to seek out The Comic’s Comic, comedians and comedy insiders voted Hicks thirteenth on their record of “The High 20 Biggest Comedy Acts Ever”.[55] In “Comedy Central Presents: 100 Biggest Stand-ups of All Time” (2004), Hicks was ranked nineteenth.[56] In March 2007, he was voted sixth on Britain’s Channel 4 record of the 100 Biggest Stand-Up Comics, and rose to quantity 4 on the 2010 record.[57]

Devotees have included Hicks’s phrases, picture, and perspective into their very own creations. By way of audio sampling, fragments of his rants, diatribes, social criticisms, and philosophies have discovered their method into many musical works, such because the dwell model of Tremendous Furry Animals’ “The Man Do not Give a Fuck” and Adam Freeland’s “We Need Your Soul”. His affect on the band Device is nicely documented as he’s sampled at the start of their track “Third Eye”Ænima (1996); he “seems” on the Fila Brazillia album Maim That Tune (1995) and on SPA’s eponymously titled album SPA (1997), that are each devoted to Hicks; the British band Radiohead’s second album The Bends (1995) can be devoted to his reminiscence.[58] American indie rock band Constructed to Spill’s track “Planting Seeds” on its 2009 album There Is No Enemy alludes to Hicks’s routine on promoting and advertising and marketing, which seems on the efficiency movie Invoice Hicks: Revelations.[59] Singer/songwriter Tom Waits listed Rant in E-Minor as one in every of his 20 most cherished albums of all time.[60]

Comedians who’ve cited Hicks as an inspiration embrace Joe Rogan,[61][62] Dave Attell,[63] Lewis Black,[64] Patton Oswalt,[65] David Cross,[66] Russell Model,[67] Ron White,[68] Frankie Boyle,[69] Jimmy Dore, and Brendon Burns.

The British actor Chas Early portrayed Hicks within the one-man stage present Invoice Hicks: Slight Return, which premiered in 2004. The present was co-written by Chas Early and Richard Hurst, and imagined Hicks’s view of the world 10 years after his dying.

Hicks is talked about within the 1999 British movie Human Visitors. Within the film, the younger and hip club-going protagonist, “Jip” praises Hicks instead thinker, and explains that he must get a daily infusion of Hicks’s insights. Earlier than leaving his home to start out on the film’s essential journey, Jip states: “…first a each day injection of the late prophet Invoice Hicks… simply to remind me to not take life too significantly.” He then watches a clip of one in every of Hicks’s rants about medication, and the way that they had by no means affected him badly.[70][71]

On February 25, 2004, British MP Stephen Pound tabled an early day movement titled “Anniversary of the Demise of Invoice Hicks” (EDM 678 of the 2003–04 session), the textual content of which reads:

That this Home notes with unhappiness the tenth anniversary of the dying of Invoice Hicks, on twenty sixth February 1994, on the age of 33 [sic]; remembers his assertion that his phrases can be a bullet within the coronary heart of consumerism, capitalism and the American Dream; and mourns the passing of one of many few individuals who could also be talked about as being price of inclusion with Lenny Bruce in any record of unflinching and painfully trustworthy political philosophers.[72]

Hicks appeared in a flashback scene in author Garth Ennis’s Vertigo comic-book collection Preacher, within the story “Underworld” in problem No. 31 (Nov. 1997).[73][74]

Hicks is the topic of no less than two tribute songs together with “Invoice Hicks” launched in 2000 by fellow Texan Ed Hamell of Hamell on Trial, and the 2007 “Invoice Hicks” by Australian gypsy-blues group Juke Baritone and the Swamp Canines.

Rock band Clutch mentions Hicks within the track “Easy methods to Shake Arms” from their 2018 album, E book of Dangerous Choices. “Very first thing that I am gonna do is disclose all these U.F.O.s, put Jimi Hendrix on the 20 greenback invoice, and Invoice Hicks on a 5 be aware”.

People musician Roxanne de Bastion devoted her 2012 track “Here is Tom with the climate”, impressed by the eponymous quote, to Invoice Hicks.

English songwriter-musician Charlie Dore wrote the people ballad track, “When Invoice Hicks Died,” for her album, Cuckoo Hill, launched in 2006.[75]

Movie and documentary

  • Annex Houston (1986) (bootleg). A video of an early rise up efficiency dwell in Texas.
  • Sane Man (1989). The primary official video recorded Invoice Hicks present.
  • Ninja Bachelor Occasion (1991). A 1991 low-budget comedy movie produced by and starring Invoice Hicks, Kevin Sales space, and David Johndrow.
  • One Night time Stand (1991). A half-hour efficiency recorded for the HBO stand-up collection.
  • Relentless (1992). Recorded on the Centaur Theatre throughout the annual Only for Laughs Comedy Competition in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Regardless of the title, the CD model of Relentless was recorded at a separate efficiency, after the Only for Laughs competition had closed.[citation needed]
  • Revelations (1992). A dwell efficiency on the Dominion Theatre, London in November 1992.

A documentary titled American: The Invoice Hicks Story, based mostly on interviews along with his household and associates, premiered on March 12, 2010, on the South by Southwest Movie Competition in Austin, Texas.[76]

Russell Crowe introduced in 2012 that he would direct a Invoice Hicks biopic.[77] Crowe was initially considered enjoying the comic, however Mark Staufer, the actor’s schoolmate and author on the movie, steered the half is now open for casting. Joseph Gordon-Levitt was often talked about as a well-liked alternative by followers.[78] Manufacturing was anticipated to start out in 2013, however, as of 2018, no additional bulletins concerning the movie’s progress have been made.[79]

On October 28, 2018, it was introduced that Richard Linklater is about to direct a biopic about Invoice Hicks for the movie manufacturing firm Focus Options.[80]



  • Love All of the Folks: Letters, Lyrics, Routines

Additional studying

  • Sales space, Kevin; Bertin, Michael (March 2005). Invoice Hicks: Agent of Evolution. New York Metropolis: HarperCollins. ISBN 0-00-719829-9.
  • Hicks, Invoice (2004). Love All of the Folks: Letters, Lyrics, Routines. ISBN 1-932360-65-4.
  • Jarvis, Zeke (April 7, 2015). Make ’em Giggle! American Humorists of the twentieth and twenty first Centuries. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-1-4408-2994-9.
  • Kaufman, Will (1997). Comic As Confidence Man: Research in Irony Fatigue. Detroit, Michigan: Wayne State College Press. ISBN 0-8143-2657-9.
  • Mack, Ben; Pulkkinen, Kristin (October 2005). What Would Invoice Hicks Say?. ISBN 1-933368-01-2.
  • Newfield, Jack (2003). American Rebels. New York: Nation Books. ISBN 1-56025-543-9.
  • Outhwaite, Paul (November 2003). One Consciousness: An Evaluation of Invoice Hicks’s Comedy (third ed.). D.M. Productions. ISBN 0-9537461-3-5.
  • True, Cynthia (2002). American Scream: The Invoice Hicks Story. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 0-380-80377-1.

  • Official web site Edit this at Wikidata
  • Invoice Hicks’s Final Interview 1993
  • Invoice Hicks at IMDb
  • Invoice Hicks at Discover a Grave

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