William Melvin Hicks, better known as Bill, was a stand-up comedian of the first order. And unfortunately, he died from pancreatic cancer before he was given the chance to truly become a star, pantheon level. As such, his legacy, if you want to call it that, will be always be that of what could’ve been.
Hicks was only 32 years old when he died in 1994. He described his style as “Chomsky with dick jokes,” and he used humor as a weapon against consumerism, the media, pop culture, really anything that he felt was a tool of the ruling class to keep people from thinking for themselves. It was dangerous comedy, seeped in the same dark intelligence of revolutions.
Even if he were offered a sitcom or late-night TV show, it’s hard to fathom his saying yes. Then again, Kurt Cobain never had the chance to suck either.
And even though he was voted as the fourth-best stand-up comic of all-time by UK’s Channel 4, it’s hard not to feel like the cult of Bill Hicks should be bigger. That he should be a folk hero. But his name is almost never brought up in discussions about the best stand-ups. Never.
Hopefully, with the April 8 release of American: The Bill Hicks Story, a new documentary about the life and career of an under-appreciated genius, that much-deserved appreciation will swell into a chorus of people shouting, “You knows an over-rated stand-up? That guy, Bill Hicks. Can’t understand why so many people love him.”