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Bill Hicks

William Melvin "Bill" Hicks (December 16, 1961 – February 26, 1994) was an American comedian, social critic, satirist and musician. His material, encompassing a wide range of social issues including religion, politics, and philosophy, was controversial, and often steeped in dark comedy. He criticized consumerism, superficiality, mediocrity, and banality within the media and popular culture, which he characterized as oppressive tools of the ruling class that keep people "stupid and apathetic".

At the age of 16, while still in high school, he began performing at the Comedy Workshop in Houston, Texas. During the 1980s, he toured the United States extensively and made a number of high-profile television appearances; but it was in the UK that he amassed a significant fan base, filling large venues during his 1991 tour. He also achieved a modicum of recognition as a guitarist and songwriter.

Hicks died of pancreatic cancer on February 26, 1994 in Little Rock, Arkansas, at the age of 32. In subsequent years – in particular after a series of posthumous album releases – his body of work gained a significant measure of acclaim in creative circles, and he developed a substantial cult following. In 2007, he was voted the fourth greatest stand-up comic on Channel 4's list of the 100 Greatest Stand-Ups, and he maintained that ranking on the 2010 list.


In 1990, Hicks released his first album, Dangerous, performed on the HBO special One Night Stand, and performed at Montreal's Just for Laughs festival. He was also part of a group of American stand-up comedians performing in London's West End in November.
Hicks was a huge hit in the UK and Ireland and continued touring there throughout 1991. That year, he returned to the Just for Laughs festival and recorded his second album, Relentless.
On October 9, 1993, Hicks was scheduled to appear on the Late Show with David Letterman for the twelfth time, but his entire performance was removed from the broadcast -- the only occasion, up to that point, in which a comedian's entire routine had been cut after taping. Both the show's producers and CBS denied responsibility. Hicks expressed his feelings of betrayal in a hand-written, 39-page letter to John Lahr of The New Yorker. Although Letterman later expressed regret at the way Hicks had been handled, he never appeared on the show again. The full account of this incident was featured in a New Yorker profile by Lahr. This profile was later published as a chapter in John Lahr's book, Light Fantastic.
The British movie Human Traffic referred to him as the "late prophet Bill Hicks," and showed that the main character, Jip, liked to watch a bit of Hicks's stand-up before going out for a night to "remind me not to take life too seriously". Hicks even appears in the comic book Preacher, in which he is an important influence on the protagonist, Rev. Jesse Custer. His opening voice-over to the 1991 Revelations live show is also quoted in Preacher's last issue.
Hicks performed the final show of his career at Caroline's in New York on January 6, 1994. He moved back to his parents' house in Little Rock, Arkansas shortly thereafter. He called his friends to say goodbye before he stopped speaking on February 14, and died of cancer in the presence of his parents at 11:20 p.m. on February 26, 1994. Hicks was buried on the family plot in Leakesville, Mississippi

 

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