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Bill Hicks Biography

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Bill Hicks In-depth Biography

Bill Hicks} was the last great social satirist, the true descendent of comedians like Lenny Bruce}, Richard Pryor}, and Mort Sahl}. The self-described "Prince of Darkness," his work confronted the hypocrisies of late-20th century American life, divining comedy} from the more evil impulses of the government and the mass media while assaulting the soullessness of mainstream culture. An alcoholic, coke addict, and chain smoker, Hicks} also experimented heavily with hallucinogenics, and his monologues addressed issues of expanded consciousness and spirituality rare to the comedy} format; for all of the rage inherent in his standup, his message was one of transcendence -- as he frequently reminded audiences, "The truth will set you free."

William M. Hicks} was born on December 16, 1961, in Valdosta, GA. Raised in a strict Baptist household in the Houston, TX, subdivision of Nottingham Forest, he became fascinated by comedy} at a young age, and by the time he was 13 Hicks} was tape-recording his favorite comedians' routines off of the TV and staying up all night writing his own material. While a sophomore in high school, he and a friend began sneaking off to Houston's Comedy Workshop} to perform at open-mike sessions; when his parents found out, Hicks} was grounded. Following his graduation in 1980 he moved to Los Angeles, and began honing his craft at the legendary Comedy Store}.

Throughout the Reagan} years, Hicks} developed his bitter, vitriolic style -- "the comedy} of hate," he once dubbed it; among his frequent victims were the conservative right, the advertising industry, nonsmokers, pro-lifers, mainstream pop culture, fundamentalists, and the {%Warren} Commission (the assassination of John F. Kennedy} was a lifelong obsession). By the end of the decade, Hicks}' stage presence -- seething and provocative, spiteful and ranting -- led many to lump him in with comics like Andrew Dice Clay}, Sam Kinison}, and Denis Leary}; however, while his contemporaries ultimately softened their acts in the name of commercial viability and movie deals, Hicks} stuck to his guns and rejected a string of offers to do television, feature films, and commercials, calling TV "Lucifer's dream box."

In 1990, his career took flight; he issued two standup albums, Dangerous} and Relentless}, became a cult hero in Britain (where he recorded a special for the Channel Four} network), taped another show for HBO}, and continued performing upwards of 250 concert dates annually. His frenetic pace continued over the next several years; however, in the summer of 1993 Hicks} was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Informing no one of his condition besides his family and girlfriend, he began chemotherapy treatments but continued working even more feverishly, planning a projected book as well as a British series titled The Counts of the Netherworld}.

That October, Hicks} became the first performer since Elvis Presley} to be banned from New York's Ed Sullivan Theatre} after a performance on CBS}' Late Show With David Letterman} was censored in its entirety; the resulting controversy made him a media cause célèbre, and he was invited to write a column for the weekly liberal magazine The Nation}. Additionally, he was contacted by the alternative} band Tool}, who invited Hicks} to open a number of their live shows (a number of his monologues were later sampled for the group's 1996 album, Aenima}).

Despite the flurry of activity, his condition worsened; finally, on February 26, 1994, Hicks} died at the age of 32. In early 1997, Rykodisc} reissued both Dangerous} and Relentless} along with a pair of previously unreleased albums, Arizona Bay} and Rant in E-Minor}. The label followed those releases with Flying Saucer Tour, Vol. 1} and Love, Laughter and Truth} in 2002. The Invasion Group} label issued the unauthorized Hicks} CD, Shock and Awe}, in 2003; the recording was derived from a 1992 appearance at the Oxford Playhouse Theatre} in the U.K. The 2005 Rykodisc} release Salvation} was sourced from the same show but was an official release with more material. ~ Jason Ankeny, All Music Guide

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