Comedian Bill Hicks once described his act as “Chomsky with dick jokes”, and despite the throwaway tone, it’s kind of accurate. Bill Hicks was one of those rare comedians (like Lenny Bruce and George Carlin before him) with the ability to turn our hypocrisies and our ignorance into hilarious material that walked an edge that was at once outrageous, but also (more importantly) enlightening. Nothing seemed taboo or off-limits. Everything was grist for the mill. War, smoking, drugs, religion, news media, corrupt governments, abortion, sex, police, talentless musicians…these were the primary topics for the Bill Hicks deconstruction. And Rant in E-Minor is a great example of Hicks at the height of his talents. In 1994, at the age of 32, Bill Hicks died of cancer, just as he seemed on the verge of a wider popularity. And he has subsequently become a cult figure for fans of comedy, political activists, conspiracy theorists and psychonauts the world over. His influence is obvious, but also easy to underestimate. Comedians such as Patton Oswalt, Sarah Silverman and Lewis Black, through to social commentators the likes of Michael Moore and Morgan Spurlock have all walked into a venue that Bill Hicks helped build the foundations for. (And the debate over Denis Leary ripping-off his jokes, continues to this day). In this sense, Bill Hicks was ahead of his time. Listening to his jokes about the deceptive nature of the media, or his tirades on the Gulf War, the jokes are uncannily prescient, revealing how little has changed, and illuminating the patterns of power that so many of us fail to perceive. (And it seems he may’ve anticipated Reality TV, with his idea for a TV show called: Let’s Hunt and Kill Billy Ray Cyrus.) Luckily, we still have the performances that were thankfully recorded, so his legacy is now fortified; his world-view now immortalised. So we can all benefit from his special brand of southern-fried post-modern evangelist wisdom.
~ DECOY SPOON