Bill Hicks’ Late Show

by February 6th, 2009 - Culture »


That is the title of Bill Hicks‘ “Best of” album and truly the element that sets Bill Hicks apart from most other stand-up comedians with only the exception of George Carlin coming to mind. Not content with lightheartedly making observations of the trivial annoyances of day to day life, Hicks developed material biting at the deeper roots of all things great and horrible in life, presenting his ideas masterfully and passionately with such furious energy, obscenity and wit that the audience, when not riotously laughing, were left with little other option than to newly consider the topic at hand…agree or disagree.

After touring heavily, recording several fantastic television performances and albums, and carving a very deep impression into anyone who had heard or seen him at work, Bill Hicks died of pancreatic cancer February 26, 1994.

As when any burning cultural icon passes, their fanatics grow to be something more and controversial tales of the celebrities life become the favorite way to pass the infinite time until he or she will not return. There are a few interesting conversations of this sort surrounding Bill Hicks, but the biggest seems to have just largely been resolved…or at least watered down.

Shortly before his death, after 11 previous appearances on NBC‘s Late Night with David Letterman, Bill Hicks recorded a performance that was to air on the October 11th, 1993 episode of The Late Show with David Letterman, newly installed on CBS. However, without precedent, the entire performance was cut from the program creating some understandably ill feelings.

Since that incident and Hicks’ death, the controversy festered unresolved until recently. The history of all this is discussed in detail on Air America Media’s BreakRoom Live with Marc Maron and the less talented duo of Sam Seder and Janeane Garofalo.

In addition to fans and devotees demanding an apology and release of the footage, It seems that Hicks’ mother, Mary Hicks, had also requested these things and had even been told that it had been lost, destroyed, or was otherwise no longer in existence.

Out of nowhere and for some queer unknown reason that creates newer and more interesting mysteries, David Letterman on January 30th 2009 had Mary Hicks as his guest, apologized profusely for the pain he had caused, accepted all blame for the incident, and finally aired the footage. The complete conversation with Mary Hicks and video of Bill Hicks’ performance form October 11th 1993 can be found here.

That banned performance, while still very entertaining and smart, was nothing extraordinary within the context of Hicks’ body of work. It could not have been banned for language as there were no four letter words. Certainly, I would stress to anyone who has not been witness to Bill Hicks in the past, that this performance is a very tame, stripped down version of his material. However, its still very funny and intelligent and so perhaps it was the still very critical attacks on religion and consumer America that had prompted its banning. Perhaps it was the violence inherent in “Lets Hunt and Kill Billy Ray Cyrus” or the overreactively misinterpretable (I understand these may not yet be real words) jokes regarding homosexuality.

Given Letterman’s new job in a new time slot, it is not beyond one’s imagination to still see why perhaps he was dumbly spooked at the time. Was it still really…really shitty? Sure. I’m not a Letterman apologist, but I have generally enjoyed what Letterman I’ve sparsely watched throughout the years despite the controversy – especially his masterful role in Chris Elliot‘s Cabin Boy – and appreciate his recent apology whatever the mysterious or wind down reasoning behind it.

But before you run out to buy the blu-ray version of Cabin Boy – dear Bob NO! – I’d instead much more strongly recommend you spending your hard earned phantom internet credits on the albums and videos of Bill Hicks.

Turn it on and get pissed off, offended, grin your teeth and watch it, laugh a little, laugh more, laugh harder, get uncomfortable in front of no one, and in general get fucked up and think about shit. If we all take 5 minutes every morning to listen to Bill Hicks or some other startling instigative agitation instead of or while doing Yoga, maybe in our lifetime we WILL build a spaceship..we WILL explore outer space together…and some of us will colonize a new planet and establish a new standard of television where on any channel at any time there will be an inspirationalyl incomprehensible orgy of sex, violence, obscenity and passionate fucking ideas…the audience something more orgasmically conscious rather than statically attentive.

That’s not watching life…that’s living…

…and I to you…will forever be…your very own hairy-bobbin’-man-ass…on demand.

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