Bill Hicks, the acid-tongued stand-up comic who famously appeared in an issue of Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon's Preacher, died 25 years ago today.
Hicks is now most famous for his "it's just a ride" monologue, which was given added poignancy after he died at 32 in 1994. During his lifetime, he mocked religion, politics,
Besides appearing in Preacher (and being extensively sampled by Tool), Hicks has had pop culture cred that extended after his death in part because of a stylish, half-animated documentary feature film about his life. Through the use of animation, directors Matt Harlock and Paul Thomas crafted a narrative approach to American: The Bill Hicks Story, almost making it a biopic because Hicks was able to "participate" in the form of animation cut to existing audio from the comic.
You can hear longtime ESPN and MSNBC commentator introducing that film at its New York premiere in 2009 below.
Indie film favorite Richard Linklater is reportedly developing an actual biopic based on Hicks's life now.
More recently, his work was quoted extensively in the viral fan comic Batman: The Deal.
Hicks had critics during his life -- his final appearance on The Late Show With David Letterman was cut from the broadcast after Hicks refused to tone down jokes about the religious right -- and continues to now. His bomb-throwing and vulgar style offends both conservatives (the most frequent butts of his jokes) and liberals (since a shock-and-awe comic who died in the '90s has plenty of material that would not fly now, including sexually explicit, triggering, and homophobic content).
During his life, Hicks sparred with fellow standup Denis Leary. Years before appearing in The Amazing Spider-Man, Leary was a stand-up and contemporary of Hicks's. Most comedians of the time would agree that he borrowed liberally from Hicks, and once Leary's career exploded while Hicks's did not, that became a frequent source of frustration for Hicks, whose favorite targets were often "sell-outs" like Jay Leno and Willie Nelson, whom he attacked for their corporate ties.
Hicks died in 1994 from pancreatic cancer, a malady likely hastened on by the chain-smoking that was a frequent component of his comedy sets. Several of his stand-up specials and short films can be found on Netflix, and fans can purchase American: The Bill Hicks Story on digital platforms like iTunes, Vudu, and Amazon.
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