Bill Hicks, born on December 16, 1961, was an American stand-up comedian, social critic, satirist, and musician. He was famously revered as a “comedian’s comedian.” Hicks began as part of a comedic duo with his childhood friend, Dwight Slade, before becoming a stand-up comedian. Although he was American, he had a bigger fan base in the United Kingdom, where he filled large venues during his tours. Hicks was also a guitarist and songwriter, and worked with the likes of Tool, a progressive metal band. He died on February 26, 1994, after a year-long battle with pancreatic cancer.
Bill Hicks (whose full name was William Melvin Hicks) was born on December 16, 1961, in Valdosta, Georgia. He was the youngest of three children in a devout Southern Baptist family. His father, James Melvin Hicks, was a General Motors executive who moved the family to Florida, Alabama and New Jersey before settling in Houston, Texas. Hicks grew up emulating comedians Woody Allen and Richard Pryor. In high school, Hicks and his friend Dwight would perform to the delight of their classmates. At 15, Hicks began sneaking out at night to perform at a new comedy club alongside Slade.
Hicks chose to stay in Houston and finish high school when his family relocated to Little Rock, Arkansas. During that time, he played the guitar and sang in a garage rock band. He then moved to Los Angeles and performed regularly at the Comedy Store alongside many influential comedians. In the late 1980s, he moved to New York City, where he signed his first professional contract, released his first video titled “Sane Man,” and performed about 300 times over the next five years.
In 1990, Hicks released his first comedy album “Dangerous.” He performed at Montreal’s Just for Laughs festival and in an H.B.O. special. In November of that year, he toured the United Kingdom and was warmly received by British audiences. Between 1992 and 1993, he released the album “Relentless,” recorded the albums “Rant in E-Minor” and “Arizona Bay,” and toured Australia. In June 1993, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and began chemotherapy. In October that year, he made his 12th guest appearance on “Late Night with David Letterman” on C.B.S. On January 6, 1994, Hicks made his last appearance at Carolines on Broadway in New York. The following month, he died at his parents’ house in Arkansas.
Hicks sneaks out at night to perform at Comedy Workshop, where he is an audience favorite.
He moves to New York City, releases his first video, and performs about 300 times in the next five years.
He releases his first comedy album “Dangerous.”
He tours the United Kingdom and Ireland where he gains a cult following.
He releases the album “Relentless” and records “Rant in E-Minor” and “Arizona Bay.”
He makes his last appearance at Carolines on Broadway in New York City.
Why We Love Bill Hicks
He inspired a new generation of comedians
Hicks has been a source of inspiration for some of the world’s biggest comedians. Several comedians have cited Hicks as an inspiration, including Joe Rogan, Lewis Black, Russell Brand, Ron White, and Dave Attell. He has been the subject of several tribute songs and documentaries.
He was one of the greatest comics
Even in death, Hicks’ fame only grew stronger. His words, image, and attitude have been used many times in various artistic creations, including music albums, movies, comic books, and in advertising and marketing.
He was a truthsayer
Hicks was not afraid to express his opinions about politics, religion, abortion, drugs, pornography, and even conspiracy theories. Comedy served as his vehicle to convey the truth about many wrong things that people around the world considered right.
5 Surprising Facts
Hicks was like Lenny Bruce
Hicks was often likened to Bruce, an outstanding American stand-up comic during the 1950s and 1960s.
His odd experiments
In the 1980s, he began exploring different “altered states of consciousness” such as meditating, using sensory deprivation tanks, and experimenting with mushrooms that induced hallucinations.
David Letterman apologized to Hicks’ mom
Hicks’ “excised” performance about a controversial subject on Letterman’s show was shown in its entirety in 2009; the latter admitted his mistake and apologized to Hicks’ mother on the air.
His “rock and roll” attitude
Hicks would always come on stage in his signature black attire to a thunderous Jimi Hendrix soundtrack, bringing a “rock and roll” attitude to his comic performances.
Exactly 19 albums of Hicks have been released posthumously.
Bill Hicks FAQs
Where can I watch Bill Hicks?
You can watch Hicks in videos streamed on Netflix. You can also check YouTube for several of his stand-up comedy shows.
How else were Bill Hicks’ achievements recognized?
Hicks made it to the list of ‘The Top 20 Greatest Comedy Acts Ever’ by comedians and comedy insiders and the Channel 4 list of the ‘100 Greatest Stand-up Comics.’
Did Bill Hicks write songs?
He did; his self-titled rock album “Marble Head Johnson” (released in 1992) featured songs he had written.
Bill Hicks’s birthday dates