December 16, 1961
February 26, 1994
Bill Hicks Overview:
Bill Hicks is maybe the most influential comedian that few people outside of comedy nerd circles are aware of. Though he toured and performed and built a cult audience throughout the '80s, it wasn't until the early 1990s that he really started to break through to the mainstream; sadly, though, he passed away in 1994 and never got the opportunity to really capitalize on his burgeoning success. Hicks' act was literate and angry, and he was highly critical of just about everything related to American culture, particularly institutions like politics and organized religion. His influence can be heard in any number of contemporary comedians from David Cross to Patton Oswalt to Russell Brand to (most controversially) Denis Leary.
Quick Bill Hicks Facts:
- William Melvin Hicks was born in Valdosta, Georgia but raised primarily in Houston, Texas, where he moved at age seven.
- He began performing stand-up comedy around Houston at age 16.
- After touring throughout the '80s, Hicks taped his first HBO One Night Stand in 1990.
- Bill Hicks died in 1994 after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He was only 32 years old.
- Though he released only two comedy albums while he was alive, another six albums of new material and two "best of" compilations were released posthumously.
Bill Hicks Discography:
- Dangerous (1990)
- Relentless (1992)
- Arizona Bay (1997)
- Rant in E-Minor (1997)
- Philosophy: The Best of Bill Hicks (2001)
- Love, Laughter and Truth (2001)
- Flying Saucer Tour Vol. 1 (2002)
- Shock and Awe (2003)
- Salvation (2005)
- Bill Hicks: The Essential Collection (2010)
Bill Hicks and Denis Leary:
Hicks and comedian Denis Leary were friends for many years, but had a falling out after Hicks felt that Leary's 1993 stand-up special, No Cure for Cancer, incorporated large chunks of Hicks' act. In fact, it has been suggested by several other comedians that much of Leary's onstage persona -- the cigarette smoking, the angry rants -- were liberally borrowed from what Hicks was doing. Though there hasn't been any concrete evidence that Leary stole material, his friendship with Hicks came to an end after the falling out.
Additional Bill Hicks Facts:
- Hicks performed his final set at Caroline's on Broadway on January 6, 1994, before moving back to his parents' house in Little Rock, Arkansas, for the final few months of his life.
- Hicks was placed nineteenth in Comedy Central's 2004 poll of the 100 Greatest Stand-up of All Time.
- He was voted "Hot Stand-up Comic" by Rolling Stone in 1993.
- He served as the opening act for the rock band Tool during the band's 1992 Lollapalooza concert dates.
- A documentary about the comedian's life, American: The Bill Hicks Story, was released in 2010.