Up to this point in my life, I can’t think of any other comedian who has opened my eyes to the world more than Bill Hicks. George Carlin gave me the confidence to doubt the existence of God, but it was Hicks who gave me the ability to be openly critical of the media and every other kind of information-disseminating medium out there. Now I question everything, and if you’re annoyed by that, you have Mr. Hicks to thank for it.
Bill didn’t do a lot of dick joke material or silly one-liners; he was mainly a social commentator (like Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Bill Maher, and Chris Rock) who poked fun at controversial subjects of his day. Some of his philosophies were based on common sense, others on drug-related issues or the unconditional love of God. Bill never sold out by doing a commercial or advertising because he didn’t believe that advertising held any merit, and he certainly convinced me of that. He also wasn’t afraid to express his true feelings about religion, the first Gulf war or gays.
On October 1st, 1993, Bill Hicks appeared on Late Night with David Letterman. It would turn out to be his last performance on that show, but T.V. viewers never saw it. His entire skit was cut because Bill had done the following material (taken word for word from a recording at West Palm beach sometime after the final Letterman taping in 1993):
“I got dragged to the dance club the other night, against my will, that was the only way it was gonna happen. And this girl asked me to dance, which I thought was really funny. “Would you like to dance?” “Oh, you read my mind. That’s why I’m leaning in the darkest corner closest to the exit…y’know…I’m about to boogie. I’m about to cut a rug.” But it’s so weird: women have this weird myth, you can tell the way a guy is in bed by how he is on a dance floor. I think that’s so ludicrous. First of all, what does it matter, y’know what I mean? If a guy is on a dance floor, really gettin’ into it, enjoying himself, and expressing himself, what does it matter how he is in bed…he’s gay! Real men don’t dance, they sit, sweat, and curse. Speaking of homosexuality, uh, I consider myself a fairly open-minded person, alright? And something has come to my attention that has shocked even me. Have you heard about these new grade school books for children to help explain to them the gay lifestyle? Have you heard about this? One of them is called “Heather’s two mommies”, the other is called “Daddy’s new roommate”. I’m gonna have to draw the line here folks, and say this is absolutely disgusting. It is grotesque and it is pure evil. I’m, of course, talking about “Daddy’s new roommate”. “Heather’s two mommies” is really cool! Oh, they’re hugging on page 7, go mommies, go! Ooooh, they kiss in chapter 4, oooooh! Me and my nephew wrassle over that book every night. “Uncle Bill, I’ve gotta do my homework!” “Shut up! Do math! I’m readin’ your homework, I’m checkin’ it out for ya again. Go mommies go!” Do you know there’s actually people in the world that consider that a double standard? Hahahaha! Humans are so whacky, I can’t get a grip on ’em! I can’t keep up with humans! You know who’s really, really tiresome these days…I’m just about sick of it…Pro-life people. Cut it out, you lost, go home. Y’ever look at their faces? “I’m pro-life!” Boy, they look it, don’t they? Don’t they just exude love of life? Don’t you just wanna play Trivial Pursuit with ’em and hang out? “I’m pro-life!” How’d you like to be a kid in an orphanage when a pro-life family comes to adopt? “We’re pro-life and we’re here to adopt.” Uh, not me! No, please, no. I’m good! Fifteen to a bed, no problem! Uh, gruel, love it! Just keep us stocked up with “Heather’s two mommies” and we’ll be fine. Really.” See, what bugs me, here’s what bugs me: if you’re so pro-life, okay, don’t lock arms and block medical clinics, okay? If you’re so pro-life, lock arms…and block cemeteries. Let’s see how committed you are to this idea. “She can’t come in!” “She was 98, she was hit by a bus!” “There’s options!” “What, are we gonna have her stuffed? She’s startin’ to smell, let’s go!” I wanna see pro-life people goin’ to funerals with crowbars opening caskets, going, “Get out!” How committed are you? Y’know, strangely enough, that face…”I’m pro-life”…is the same face non-smokers have. “I’m a non-smoker….I’m a pro-life non-smoker!” God, I wanna hang with them, don’t you? Kick back. Here are other profound thoughts. I’ve been getting that look a lot these days because I started smoking again…and uh, and I also started performing abortions. So, I’m gettin’…I’m gettin’ that look left and right now. No, I started smokin’, I went nine months without a cigarette, but I’m back, I know, it’s just insidious. But uh, I really love it, I can’t…I’m sorry. I smoke enough to kill half a dozen Marlboro men and put all six of their horses in oxygen stalls. I have this belief, that, this theory, this belief, that if that scenario is at all true, when you die and you go to Heaven and St. Peter meets you at the gate, if that’s at all true, I believe the first thing he’s gonna ask you is, “You got a light?” “You mean y’all smoke here?” “Yeah, that’s why it’s Heaven! These aren’t clouds, this is cigarette smoke, pal! Hell is non-smoking, you wanna look at them for a second?” “Sure!” “I can’t believe what they do to their bodies! It smells like an ashtray! Why do they think I’d want to smell their secondary smoke while I’m trying to eat! I can’t believe they’d do that to their own bodies!” “God, how hellish!” “Exactly! Light up and come on in! Hendrix is on harp tonight!” Been travelin’ a lot, as usual. Gypsy that I am. I was in Australia recently. I was over in Australia during Easter, that was interesting to note they celebrate Easter the same way we do: commemorating the death and resurrection of Jesus by telling our children a giant bunny rabbit…left chocolate eggs in the night. Ahem. Gee, I wonder why we’re messed up as a race, anybody got any clues? Y’know, I read the Bible, I can’t find the word “bunny” or “chocolate” anywhere in that book. Where do you come up with this stuff? Why those two things? Why not goldfish left lincoln logs in our sock drawers? As long as we’re makin’ stuff up, go hog wild. At least the idea of a goldfish cartin’ a Lincoln log across your floor has some kind of miraculous connotation to it. I think it’s interesting to note how people act on their beliefs, y’know what I mean? It’s just interesting. I’m not, y’know, cuttin’ ’em down or anything, it’s just fascinating. A lotta Christians, for instance, wear crosses around their necks. Nice sentiment, but do you think when Jesus comes back he’s really gonna want to see a cross? Oowww! That may be why he hadn’t shown up yet! He’s up there, goin’, “Dad, they’re still wearin’ crosses, I’m not goin’! No, they totally missed the point! I’m not goin’! No! I’ll go back as a bunny, but uh…”
It was after Hicks’ performance was cancelled on the Letterman show that he modified this bit to his live acts that he performed in 1993:
“I finally got my own show coming out on CBS. It is NOT a talk show….(mimics loud applause and crowd reaction)..Dear God, thank you! Thank Jesus! Thank Mohammed! Thank Buddha! Thank Allah! Thank Krishna! Thank every fuckin’ God there is!…Please, relax…It is not a talk show. It is a half hour weekly show that I will host, entitled, “Let’s hunt and kill Billy Ray Cyrus”. Thank you. So y’all will be tunin’ in? It’s a fairly self-explanatory plot: each week we let the hounds of hell loose and chase that jarhead, no-talent, cracker asshole all over the globe until I finally catch that fruity little ponytail of his…in the back…pull him to his knees, put a shotgun in his mouth like a big black cock of death….BOOM….and we’ll be back in ’95 with “Let’s hunt and kill Michael Bolton”. Thank you very much. I’m just trying to rid the world of all these fevered egos that are tainting our collective unconscious and making us pay a higher psychic price than we imagined. In fact, that’s how I pitched it to the networks, exactly. I said, “I’d like to do a show where I rid the world of all these fevered egos that are tainting our collective unconscious”, and the guy at CBS said, “Will there be titty?” I said, “Sure, I don’t know, sure”. BOOM, a check falls in my lap…I’m a producer, I never knew it was that easy. All these years I’ve been trying to write scripts and characters and plots and stories that had meaning…”Will there be titty?” “Sure.” BOOM. I’m a producer now. “Where have you been all our life, boy? We been lookin’ for you in Hollywood. What are these titties gonna do?” “I don’t know, jiggle?” “You’re a fuckin’ genius! Give him another check! I can’t write enough checks for you. You’ve answered our prayers in Hollywood. Jigglin’ titties, who woulda thunk of it?””
Why was Hicks censored by CBS from Late night with David Letterman? I think it’s because the three things he talked about (gays, pro-lifers, and Jesus/religion) were “hot spots”. The censors had to cut so much from Bill’s act that it wouldn’t make sense to air only 1 or 2 minutes of his material. This was AFTER he had done the same set on the phone with some of the people from CBS, and then he had to go to the offices to perform the set for more people before he was allowed to perform it in front of an audience on Late Night with David Letterman! So, if all these CBS people APPROVED Bill’s set, then why was he cut completely from the show? Well, as Bill intimates with Howard Stern (through an on-air phone call), CBS’s “standards and practices” (I’m guessing they don’t call it “censorship” because it sounds a bit too negative) didn’t like what he had to say (the “hot spots” excuse). As an interesting side note, after cutting Bill’s set from the show, CBS ran a pro-life ad during the commercials. Lenny Bruce (who was similar to Bill because, not only was Lenny censored, but talked about many controversial things in his time) was arrested many times for ‘obscene’ material/shows back in the 1960’s. Lenny and Bill shared their ideas with an audience and were censored. They didn’t talk about planning assassinations, overthrowing governments or killing massive amounts of people, so why were they censored? The Catholic Church didn’t like what Lenny had to say about Catholicism, and the pro-life movement didn’t like what Bill had to say about them.
Bill Hicks died on February 26th, 1994 in Little Rock, Arkansas of pancreatic cancer. He never told his fans, never announced it on an album or during a performance; he just kept preaching his word and expressing his ideas. The man was less concerned about himself and more concerned with trying to make us all think for ourselves so we could improve this world.
Without his wisdom, his intellect and ability to make us laugh at ourselves (and our shortcomings), we’ll probably never evolve as he wanted us to. We will continue to believe our government, our media, hate each other, not trust each other, fear each other, and go to jobs we hate for the rest of our lives. There aren’t many comedians today who compare to him and that’s what makes him memorable: he created a class that was all his own and he will always will be the top student. Those of us who care will study his words and ideas and try to bring them into the light to shine down on the masses and HOPE that if one catches on, the rest will too. We lost him the same year we lost Kurt Cobain, and the fact that most major radio stations STILL give heavy airplay to “Smells like teen spirit” is a sign that banality and mediocrity will live on for some time to come. He did his best with the time that he had, and he made a believer out of me.