American: The Bill Hicks Story

Matt Harlock and Paul Thomas have produced this documentary about Bill Hicks, who died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 32. We learn about Hick’s childhood, growing up in a Southern Baptist family that moved around the South before settling in Texas. Hicks began doing stand-up as a teenager in Houston. His act developed with remarkable speed, and within a few years he was performing at the Comedy Store in Los Angeles. At around this time, he began experimenting with drugs and drinking heavily. He became notorious for getting drunk before going on stage, an absolute no-no in stand-up comedy. When clubs started banning him, he sobered up and quit drinking.

In his act, Hicks began to deal increasingly with controversial issues such as religion, patriotism and militarism. He was an outspoken critic of the first Gulf War. Posing as a journalist, he witnessed the Waco massacre. He saw a Bradley tank open fire on the Branch Davidian compound. He criticized the media for not reporting this.

Hicks’s death was a great tragedy. He could use someone like him today.

You can find samples of Hicks’s comedy here.

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