A brutally honest, viciously funny, teller of truth.
American Scream b/ Cynthia True
As a young boy in America, I WAS ALWAYS TOLD I COULD GROW UP TO BE ANYTHING I WANTED TO BE. I COULD BE A FIREMAN, A POLICEMAN, A DOCTOR, AND THEN, FOR THE FIRST TIME, SOMETHING CALLED AN ASTRONAUT. —
Bill Hicks (“REVELATIONS”)
In the end, Bill chose to be a stand up comedian, and became one of the best, a commander of respect, nowhere more than within the industry, among his fellow stand up comedians, including Jerry Seinfeld, Dana Gould, Rich Jeni, Dom Irrera, Richard Belzer, Eric Bogosian, George Carlin, John Cleese, Jay Leno, and (of course) David Letterman.
1989 — When I asked Bill if he would stand for a picture of him lighting a cigarette with a burning American Flag, as expected, he said “YES,” and never missing an opportunity to push a joke, opinion, or social commentary one step closer to the edge, he immediately added, “BUT I’D RATHER YOU TAKE A PICTURE OF ME PULLING A KNOTTED FLAG OUT OF MY ASS,” a reference to Robert Mapplethorpe, the homoerotic photographer (pornographer?) whose The Perfect Moment exhibition at the usually staid Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., was the High Society sex scandal of the day. Maybe bigger than Roxanne Pulitzer sleeping with a number of her husband Peter’s collection of brass instruments.
1991 — 48 (FUNNY) HOURS WITH BILL HICKS
At the height of Bill’s career, just after the release of his second album, Relentless, CBS’ 48 HOURS (news/feature) program featured Bill in a segment, in which they followed Bill as he hopped club to club in New York City, with Letterman’s ignorant, Ivy League talent coordinator, as he prepared, for his next day’s scheduled appearance on Letterman’s Late Night television show. The complete performance, one of Bill’s best of the twelve he did for Letterman, is included at the end of the video.
Bill vs. CBS
After his 12th and final performance on CBS’ Late Night, Bill Hicks likened his association with David Letterman’s show as an “Abusive Relationship,” with him playing the role of the beaten wife.
After the abrupt cancellation Bill called his friend, The New Yorker‘s John Lahr (Bert’s son), and told him the story of his and David Letterman’s 10-year “ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP,” and also wrote Lahr a 32-page, hand-written letter, filled with detail and elaboration.
Impressed by the passion and honesty in Bill telling his story, the intensity in how Bill told it, Lahr took it to his editor, and wrote (“THE GOAT BOY RISES“), for the magazine’s November 1, 1993 issue.
Truth After The Storm
In the week following his CBS and David Letterman rejection, Bill revealed more of his deepest, honest feelings about what he called his “abusive relationship” with David Letterman, CBS, television, and the television industry in general.
“Season Of The Witch” b/ Donovan (1968)
— The New Yorker (November 1, 1993)
Two of the most enduring documents, and a reminder of who Bill Hicks was, were John Lahr’s profile for The New Yorker, and the bootleg recording of Bill in West Palm Beach,. One week after the rejection, Bill repeats the same (TV-friendly) set that CBS refused, and in telling his home audience how he felt about it, he said how much he respected Letterman, but was honest about how he had always been at odds with network television, leading him to recall his first Late Night appearance, including the last bit, another joke the network “standards and practices” lawyers found objectionable.
With the CBS rejection fresh on his mind, Bill aims his pointed and often pornographic opinion at the corporate culture of American network television that he finds so offensive. In doing so, Hicks recalls (repeats) both his first (1988) and last (1993) Letterman sets.
Double Standards and Practices
(( 1.)) Bill Hicks’ “Abusive Relationship” with David Letterman
— — Bill Hicks, West Palm Beach (October 7, 1993)
October 7, 1993 — This (bootleg) recording is Bill Hicks at The Comedy Corner in West Palm Beach, Florida, the week after CBS refused to air his twelfth (and last) Late Night with David Letterman performance. Still emotional, on what he had called his home stage for the last two years, Bill does the same set CBS had rejected, and after goes into a long, passionate, and revealing description of what he called a 10-year “abusive relationship” with David Letterman.
Double Standards and Practices
(( 1.)) Bill Hicks In The Beginning with David Letterman
— — Bill Hicks, West Palm Beach (October 7, 1993)
The week after his set was pulled from the Letterman Show, Bill was still seething as he took the stage at the Comedy Corner in West Palm Beach. For the past two years Bill had considered the Corner his home club, and where he felt most comfortable onstage. It was an audience filled with friends and who he considered family. The few who knew, at the time of these recordings, that Bill was dying, and what he was revealing was his most heart-felt, feelings, delivered with most vicious honesty. JAY LENO SELLING DORITOS.
“Double Standards and Practices” is part of a recording that more than once has been misidentified. I’ve never seen it identified correctly, so having been there, and having a copy of the original recording, directly from the source, Jim Morin (Miami Herald’s editorial cartoonist at the time), this post is to keep the “Double Standards” record straight. This recording was taped, by Morin, with a hand-held cassette recorder, as he sat with Jim Virga (Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel photographer) and me at a table in the back of The Comedy Corner, the small club in West Palm Beach, that for the last two years of his life, Bill had called home.
The two Jims and I were three of the forty who saw this legendary, one-off performance, one of Bill’s last. Four months later, the pancreatic cancer Bill had fought (and performed with) for nearly two years had killed him.
One of America’s most powerful, Left-Leaning Libertarian voices and Viciously Funny Truth Teller commentators had been silenced. Bill was 32 years old when he died.
The Last Word
“THE GOAT BOY RISES” b/ John Lahr (The New Yorker)
David Letterman’s apology to Bill Hicks, for having agreed with CBS Standards And Practices decision not air Bill’s twelfth (and last) Late Night performance, was inviting Bill’s mother onto the program, and show her and the 2009 Late Night audience, Bill’s (until then) unseen appearance he had made sixteen years earlier (October 1, 1993).
n Bill Hicks vs. CBS
— A bootleg (audio) recording of the first performance Bill’s did after the Letterman cancellation. It was recorded at the Comedy Corner in West Palm Beach, in front of Bill’s home audience, in the town where Bill was diagnosed, and received treatment for the last two years of his life.
n Bill Hicks “UnResurrected”
— His criticizing organized religion and corporate advertising
always kept Bill out of the mainstream. A (Religion And State) compilation, unearthed and produced for the World’s first Covid-Infected Easter.
n Bill Hicks vs. War
— Bill was virtually alone, the one with the courage to speaking out against
America’s first War in Iraq, the War, at the time in 1991, had the support of more than 80 percent of the American people.
FOR THE (HONEST TO GOD) RECORD
Sane Man (1989)
— first official video recorded Bill Hicks show at his home club (The Laff Stop) in Houston, Texas.
— first official live recording of Bill in a small-crowd, late night NYC (comedy) club.
One Night Stand (1991)
— A 30-minute performance at Chicago’s Vic Theater, recorded and produced by HBO.
— In the minds of many fans, friends and believers, Bill’s second album was his best.
— The Relentless (video) performance was recorded at the Centaur Theatre, the night after the annual Just for Laughs Comedy Festival in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
— Video of a November performance at the Dominion Theatre, London, England.
Arizona Bay (1993)
— Filled with his distaste for Los Angeles and the Television Industry, Bill’s third album, featured soft (sometimes sweet) guitar interludes between live, stand up performances.
Rant In E Minor (1993)
— With only his family and closest friends knowing his time was short, Bill’s opinions were razor sharp and raw. Notably against long-time ally Jay Leno. Called to ask why Bill was speaking of him so angrily onstage? Hung up, thinking it was Dom Irerra calling as a joke. Jay calls back, saying it was really him. Don’t hang up. Understood that Bill couldn’t not express his feelings about Jay selling Doritos. Always respected David Letterman for never doing an Ad (Super Bowl w/ Jerry Seinfeld?)