AMERICAN: The Bill Hicks Story

by The Comedy Nerds on September 26, 2010

You know how you take it for granted how good The Beatles were? So much that you kind of forget how good they were? And then one day you hear, say “Drive My Car” or “In My Life” on the radio and it just hits you and you’re like “Holy Jeezum Crow! This is the best rock band in history! I forgot that!”

That thought struck me while I was watching the new documentary “AMERICAN: The Bill Hicks Story” which screened last night as part of The Friars Club Comedy Film Festival. Watching the routines that are in the film I couldn’t believe how powerful they still were all these years later. I had forgotten how good he was, how he could command an audience, lead them down whatever path he wanted, seemingly taking them to a dead end and then WHAM! slam home a punchline that would destroy the place.

And I was struck by how dangerous it all still felt. It took me right back to being 16 years old, sitting on my bed listening to Hicks’ albums, half-expecting some guys in black suits and sunglasses to break down the door, and pull the CD out of the stereo. I had that same feeling last night, sitting in the theater, part of me thinking “He can’t just say these things! And we can’t be sitting here, listening to them! We’re all going to get in trouble!”

That is the Voice of Fear. And I can thank Bill Hicks for helping me to learn to ignore that voice. Hicks either didn’t have that voice, or he learned to ignore it quickly, because it was amazing to see how fearless he was on stage, right from the start. There is some great archival footage of Bill just starting out, plus great stories about Bill from the people who knew him. In fact, there is no narration in the movie, just the people who knew him best, telling his story.

If you like Bill Hicks, or even just comedy, you should see this movie. Even if, like me, you all ready know the story pretty well, the movie uses a very interesting visual style that pulls you in and make you feel like you are there, watching these events unfold.

And most importantly, remind yourself just how good he really was.

Thanks to Jaime Marsanico and Sue Constantine who invited me to the screening and the panel discussion that happened before, which we’ll discuss in an upcoming podcast.

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