Monday, February 2, 2009

Bill Hicks on the Letterman show

If you’re a standup comedy fan – or a student of pop culture more largely – something happened last Friday night you should know about.

Bill Hicks – who died of metastatic cancer 15 years ago – performed on “The Late Show with David Letterman.”

The comedy routine was taped in October of 1993, but it was never shown... until Friday night. Letterman accepted blame for banning the performance in the first place. And he apologized to Hicks’s mother, face to face.

The “censoring” of Bill Hicks by Letterman – who had been his biggest champion – was a major event in Hicks’s legendary life. Letterman didn’t know at the time that Hicks had pancreatic cancer and would be dead within months.

When he passed at the age of 32, Hicks had secured a reputation as the most groundbreaking, risk-taking American satirist since George Carlin.

Watch this ferocious set... and Letterman’s comments at the end. You’re bound to imagine what the George W. Bush years would’ve been like with Bill Hicks still around.

21 comments:

Andrew said...

I'm glad Letterman finally owned up to this, however late, and he seemed sincere in his regret from the looks of it. Anyone who followed Hicks will have heard most of those jokes before (that Jesus seeing a cross joke gets me every time), but it's great to see all the same.

Watching that set, I can only imagine how Hicks would react today to seeing that Billy Ray Cyrus has an ever more famous spawn and Marky Mark has become a "serious" actor.

DeAngelo Starnes said...

Thanks for that Dave. I remember watching a special about this cat and wanting more.

Andrew I'm with you on the Jesus seeing a cross joke as well as the Marky Mark joke.

Undercover Black Man said...

^ DeAng, I was lucky enough to see Hicks live onstage in NYC. If I remember right, Mooney opened for him. That's a hell of a one-two.

Anonymous said...

Bill Hicks was a God. I think he will be pleased, even at this late date to be seen on Letterman. Hopefully this generates some publicity for selling more of his albums, although most dumbed down Americans won't get his jokes..

Undercover Black Man said...

^ From your first line, dude, I pegged you as a Brit.

Swill to Power said...

The Marky Mark joke doesn't date the bit nearly as much as the homophobia.

Undercover Black Man said...

^ Ummmm... what homophobia? All that stuff he said about how disgusting it was to teach about homosexuality... all that was to set up the flip vis-a-vis lesbianism.

Swill to Power said...

um, late-breaking newsflash: guys proclaiming male homosexuality "evil" but being fine with hot girl-on-girl action is pretty much par-for-the-course, middle-of-the-road homophobia. Ex: consider the onstage kiss between Madonna and Britney and ask whether it ever would have been broadcast had it been Louden Wainwright and Elton John.

Sorry to all those folks who voted for Prop. 8 while digging the latest Hustler...

Undercover Black Man said...

um, late-breaking newsflash: guys proclaiming male homosexuality "evil" but being fine with hot girl-on-girl action is pretty much par-for-the-course, middle-of-the-road homophobia.

Dude... that is precisely what Hicks was satirizing.

Swill to Power said...

Well, now I just feel lame... I read it differently, but I'd be psyched to be convinced by your take. Must now absorb as much Hicks as possible to make a comprehensive assessment. cheers stp

Undercover Black Man said...

^ Cheers back at you, mate. You're in for a treat.

Notorious Kelly said...

Many comics list Bill Hicks as one of their icons, yet would be ashamed to perform their current set in front of him.

My challenge to all artists is this:

perform material like your heroes are in the audience.

Long live Bill Hicks!

Johnny Disaster said...

STP - I guarantee you he was mocking the hypocrisy of homophobes with lesbian fetishes.
I also guarantee he appreciated the hotness of woman on woman porn.

owlathome said...

Dear Undercover Black Man --
Thanks for posting this story and video. I had not heard of Bill Hicks (where did I spend the '90s anyway?) What a treasure. I like my humor like I like my martinis -- dry and with a twist. He delivers.
Cheers

Undercover Black Man said...

^ Welcome to my spot, owlathome. And thanks for commenting.

That goes for all you new folks who came via The Raw Story.

quirkychick said...

I still listen to the CD you made me of Bill Hicks and howl every time. My favorite bit is when he talks about getting pulled over and wonders if he's at a disco with the flashing lights and the guys in uniform - homophobic?

Not even a little bit.

His observations were wickedly funny and so so smart.

Andrew said...

Anyone who's ever heard Hicks's riff on Basic Instinct knows that he's a bigtime lesbian fan.

Anonymous said...

I saw him in Bellingham on a maniacal road tour he took with Sam Kinison as "the outlaws of comedy." He was better than Sam, even though Kinison was popular because of his metal songs and the Dangerfield movie. Hicks could blow your mind.
I don't think he was homophobic but he sure could be a devil's advocate. A very agile mind.

keithinsouthwestfrance said...

I came here by way of Raw Story. Thanks for posting this. I never heard of Hicks when I was living in the US. A short time after moving to France in 2002 a guy from England told me about Bill Hicks and lent me a book about him. After reading the book I was hooked. Thanks again for posting this.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this, and thanks to Raw Story. I don't watch a lot of network TV.

Had he lived, Bill Hicks would have taken the baton from George Carlin and ran with it. We're just stuck here wondering what he would have said about the past 15 years.

We sure could have used him.

CT Bob said...

Same here; came via Raw Story. They're always good for a nice bump in the visits! Thanks for posting that little bit of the genius of Bill Hicks.