Pain and comedy go hand-in-hand, just like milk and cookies, Wall St. and cocaine, or Alex Rodriguez and a total lack of humanity. Comedy is the release of pain, the best humor strikes at our fears, worries, and heartbreak, then allows us to move past it, nothing is more profound than comedy.
Stand-up comedians are the masters of comedy. If your tooth aches you go to the dentist, if you need to laugh go to a comedian. Comedians live by the mantra that no topic is taboo, which many people find offensive, but a comedian realizes that humor in cuts through pain.
A comedian is more than a joke teller, he or she is a psychiatrist, philosopher, soothsayer, poet, friend, doctor, etc. Stand-up comedy is the best form of art and each Thursday on this site we will highlight a new comedian. We will look at past comedians that have been forgotten, up-and-comers that everyone should be aware of, and of course honor the legends of the profession who can never get enough praise.
Our first comedian was never afraid to talk about the difficult and dark problems that plague this world. He would often anger his audience and always make them uncomfortable. But he understood that it is impossible to do an act everyone enjoys and the only way to be loved as an artist is to be equally hated. His name is Bill Hicks.
Hicks is a bit of forgotten man in the history of comedy, but if you ever run into a fan of his they will gladly talk your ear off about his greatness. He was an anti-establishment comedian who wanted people to start thinking for themselves rather than just following blindly along, like sheep. His material dealt with subjects that people were either afraid to discuss.
The JFK Assassination is not a typically deep mine for comedy, nor is telling advertisers and marketers to kill themselves a Groucho Marx-esque one-liner. But it exemplifies the no holds barred material that defined Hicks’ career.
Hicks was not one to let things go. When something angered him he would shout about till his voice went horse. His anger is what drove his comedic creativity, but it was also what kept him from reaching levels of fame of some of his fellow comedians. To be fair, though, Hicks had no interest in fame, despite his immense talent, as this rant against Jay Leno demonstrates.
He was the Posterboy for the comedians’ comedian and has influenced many that have followed, such as David Cross, Joe Rogan, Bill Burr, and Louis C.K., although some people were a little more influenced than others.
He’s the only comedian to come close to touching George Carlin in taking on the establishment and diving into all the bullshit that encompasses this world. Hicks was on crusade for truth, love, justice, and logic. A battle even he probably knew he couldn’t win, but he took so much pleasure in fighting it.
Sadly Hicks died on February 26, 1994 of pancreatic cancer at the age of 32. The world has missed out on 20 years of Hicks’ material and we can only imagine what that material would’ve been as not much of what angered him back then has changed, sadly.
In fact, many things have only gotten worse, he would have had a field day with the Wall St bailouts, Iraq War, and would make Jon Stewart seem like the biggest Fox News supporter. I do not buy into everything that Hicks’ was selling and his anger could knock him off a path that lead to any kind of humor, but I do respect him immensely.
Carlin is my all-time favorite and while I do not find him as funny, Hicks was the only man who could carry on the torch his torch, which makes it sad that Carlin outlived him by 14 years. There is no dearth of profound and hilarious comedians who push the envelope, but nobody who does it with the vitriol of a Carlin and Hicks.
Post Written By Tom Demetrio, Co-founder of Millennial Man