NO, LET’S TALK ABOUT BILL HICKS
A response to “Shut Up About Bill Hicks” by Oscar Rickett, published in VICE magazine, August 6, 2012 READ IT HERE:
In your article “Shut Up About Bill Hicks”, you decry the upcoming Bill Hicks biopic because it means you’ll “have to listen to idiots droning on about how iconoclastic and awesome Hicks was”.
Well get ready because I’m about to do just that.
I hate to break it to you, Oscar, but Bill Hicks was iconoclastic whether you like it or not. That’s “iconoclastic”, as in “One who attacks and seeks to overthrow traditional or popular ideas or institutions”. I’m sorry if quoting from the dictionary too un-subtle for you, but how was he not iconoclastic? The very fact that you’re sick of hearing about him proves my point.
Bill Hicks was arguably the best stand-up comic that ever lived. I have been a comic for 16 years, and the man is without a doubt the best I have ever seen and the biggest influence on my artistic vision. I know a little bit about the man. Too bad you don’t.
Anyways, I could drone on and on and on but I’ll cut to the chase and point out the numerous flaws in your article.
According to you:
“BILL HICKS HAD NO SUBTLETY”
To quote Bill Hicks: “YEAH. AND. SO. WHAT?” No subtlety is why I like Bill Hicks. Lots of great artists lack subtlety. Iggy Pop lacks subtlety. Martin Scorcese lacks subtlety. And by the way, Oscar, your article isn’t exactly oozing subtlety, either.
To make your point, you posted a clip from Bill Hicks’ special “Revelations” (in fact, all of the examples you posted are from this special. Almost like you didn’t do any research beyond youtube-ing one special!) You blathered on about how Hicks’ calling for the deaths of people in marketing and how that isn’t comedy.
Only it is.
You neglected to mention the punch line “the people in marketing here are all thinking the same thing; ‘Oh, Bill’s going for that anti-marketing market, that’s a huge market.” I think that’s a pretty funny joke as do the hundreds of people laughing at it.
You suggest that “Hicks couldn’t recognize a world that wasn’t black and white”. Did you do ANY research on the man? Have you read his essays? Or studied his body of work?
Hicks wrote: “Today a young man on acid realized that all matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration, that we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively, there is no such thing as death, life is only a dream, and we are the imagination of ourselves. Here’s Tom with the weather.”
Are those the words of a man who only saw the world in black and white?
But you continue to attack Hicks:
“BILL HICKS IS AN ENTRY-LEVEL COMIC FOR ASPIRING LEFT-WINGERS”
Good. If listening to Hicks gets people reading Chomsky, all the better. You act as though it’s the worst thing in the world for a stand-up comedian to address social issues onstage unless they are prepared to hand out a dissertation afterwards. And then you go on to belittle the man’s work and make it sound like Hicks just stood onstage and said “did you know there’s injustice in the world?” But that’s not the case. Bill Hicks was one of the best joke writers the art of stand-up comedy has ever seen. He was funny, and animated and clever and, yes, opinionated. You would have him crucified him for caring, and call his followers fools for doing the same.
“BILL HICKS KNOCKED DOWN STRAW MEN“
Like you have by writing that article?
Hicks deconstructed organized religion in order to question its validity, but you accuse him of “simply stating the beliefs of the stupidest believers and then pulling a face”.
To illustrate your point, you isolate a single clip (again from Revelations, like you didn’t do any actual research) about Christianity where he mocks creationists.
If you actually watch the clip that you yourself liked to your blog, you’ll see a very thoughtful and insightful dissection of religious belief, not “simply stating the beliefs of the stupidest believers and then pulling a face”. He didn’t do that. If you listen to Hicks’ body of work, you’ll find that he was tremendously well-read on the subject of religion and spirituality. It was a great passion of his.
His routine “Do you think when Jesus comes back he ever wants to see a fucking cross?” displays an understanding of Christianity that many Christians would find very Christian. He called bullshit on the Pope needing bullet-proof glass “Gee, there’s faith in action!” and referred to the Catholic church as vampires “who sink their twin fangs of guilt and shame into and suck any joy of life from you.” Is that “pulling a face”?
As well, you claim “people have been attacking religion for thousands of years and they’ve thought of much better ways of doing it ”. Ummm. Not really. Those who did were often burned alive for their efforts. Pick up a history book, man.
Then you claim:
“ALL OF BILL HICKS’ JOKES WERE SHOUTED”
No they weren’t. You are wrong. In fact, very few of them were. You would know this if you had bothered to look it up. (But that’s okay, you’re not a journalist, you work for VICE!)
To demonstrate I will quote you my favorite joke of all time, a Hicks joke:
“After the show some guys met me out back and said ‘hey buddy! Mr comedian! We’re Christian and we don’t like what you said!’.
So I said ‘then forgive me.’ “
He didn’t shout this joke. He didn’t holler it at the crowd. He murmured it. This joke is so simple and true that it is sublime.
And finally you have a problem with:
You breakdown of Hicks’ “Goatboy” routine as being “what Adam Sandler does”
But he actually wasn’t doing that.
What Bill Hicks was doing here was challenging the 1500 or so left-wing Guardian readers in his audience by exploring societal taboos surrounding sexuality by expounding his love of carnal pleasures, (pornography in particular) and challenging the sensibilities of the largely PC crowd in attendance who came to hear him slag off George Bush and John Major. Adam Sandler makes dumb faces and punches people. If you can’t tell the difference, don’t make the comparison.
And even if it was Adam Sandler-ish, so what? It’s funny!
You say “He was just unbearably smug and that got in the way of anything interesting he had to say.” How would you know? You clearly weren’t paying attention in your efforts to show the world how much smarter you are than one of the best comedians who ever lived.
You. Some blogger.
It is you, Oscar, who should SHUT UP ABOUT BILL HICKS.
The rest of us will keep talking about him and continue enjoying his work, 20 years after his death.
See Dylan Rhymer’s live stand-up comedy special http://ow.ly/c0kUB
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