Twenty Years Ago Today: Death of Bill Hicks

bill-hicks After reporting on murders, massacres and wars breaking out all over the planet, it is nothing but an unmitigated relief to speak for a few paragraphs about a comedian who makes me laugh. Even if the occasion is his untimely death at the age of 32 from pancreatic cancer, which is now known as the most dickish of all cancers.

Some cancers present symptoms early enough to be treated; some worm away in secret until it's too late for anyone to do anything. Pancreatic cancer is very much of the latter category. In some ways, the location of the tumour is actually a bit of a surprise: Hicks was expecting lung cancer, constantly joking about having to breathe through a hole in his throat in five years time thanks to his tobacco addiction.

So: twenty years ago today, Bill Hicks died of cancer. He last spoke to anyone beyond his immediate family on February the 14th. He didn't speak to Denis Leary at all, after being permanently disgusted at Leary stealing his routines. He'd known about the diagnosis since June the previous year, but had kept on touring until he couldn't manage it any more, despite weekly chemotherapy.

Hicks' career lifted after his death in a way that he probably couldn't have foreseen, but may possibly have hated. All his jokes about the pointlessness of Bush Senior's war on Iraq were horribly prescient of Bush Junior's war on Iraq, nearly ten years after Hicks died. He also hated the commercialism of American culture, vilifying the disposable pop stars of his day. Which included Rick Astley, who has enjoyed an 'ironic' afterlife as a bad joke designed to piss people off, but which no doubt profited Astley immensely.

I started this blog series as a way of marketing my next book, which is set in the world of twenty years ago. Here's Hicks' verdict on marketing and people who indulge in marketing: I should probably shut up about now. In the same spirit of anti-commercialism, you can find most of Hicks' work available for free on YouTube. It'll give you an extremely entertaining evening (barring the occasional repetition of material), and make you very angry about how much things haven't changed in the last twenty years. Or possibly it'll make you angry about how much worse they are.

Relentless - Sane Man - Revelations - Bill Hicks' Last Show (allegedly, can't be sure)

(meanwhile, in the don't-believe-in-heroes department, there's some homophobia in that last link. He edges closer to misogyny as well. Bill, I am disappointed. Dammit.)