(Photo: Angela D./Flickr)
Bill Hicks is often remembered as a stand-up comic, but he was much more than that. He was a musician, a social critic, and a rabble-rouser of the highest order. His performances toed the line between straight-up comedy and biting social commentary, as Hicks pondered (and often pontificated) on a wide range of topics and ideas from corporate advertising to smoking to having children.
Hicks started early in the comedy business, doing stand-up at 16 while still in high school in Texas. His career took a series of ups and downs as he battled with substance abuse, but by the late 1980s he was sober — save for his chain smoking — and at the top of his game. He recorded albums, opened for the band Tool and got into a public feud with Denis Leary about the origin of some of Leary's material. He performed often in the United Kingdom where he gained a dedicated cult following.
Hicks died of pancreatic cancer in 1993, when he was only 32.
On the anniversary of his death, we recommend reading this Guardian obituary by John Lahr, which first ran in 1994 and is reprinted in the paper today, or this one from The Independent's Rupert Edwards.
The best way to remember him, though, is through his own words. Below, you'll find a few of the best Bill Hicks moments:
His rant about marketing which holds up pretty well all these years later.
Hicks's famous summary of human existence: "It's just a ride."
In 1993, Hicks was a guest on Late Night with David Letterman. It would have been his 12th time on the show — but the performance was cut from the broadcast last minute. Hicks believed it was due to network censorship. Letterman insisted that wasn't the case. Finally, in 1999, Letterman played Hicks's never-aired performance and invited Hicks's mother on stage as a guest and apologized to her.
Bill Hicks on music.
Hicks on intellectualism in America.