Last month, Ryko released 12/16/61 as a teaser for the new box set, Bill Hicks Essential Collection, which drops on January 18. This is a long overdue recognition for Bill Hicks, who passed away in 1994, well before his time. The box set includes some of Hicks' music, which was going to be my angle to justify writing about comedian in my music blog.
Of course, 12/16/61's brief five tracks focuses on Hicks' early standup bits and doesn't cover his songs, like Chicks Dig Jerks. Despite that, I'm happy to start the year with a detour to get a reminder of Bill Hicks' wicked sense of humor and sharp mind.
The bits here are very early Bill Hicks, from 1982. He hadn't yet settled into his scathing social commentary, although the roots are there in his Reagan references. Listening to his casual delivery and soft southern drawl, it seems almost like a harbinger of Jeff Foxworthy. Except Jeff Foxworthy never started a bit with, "I figured this out on acid; I'm not making it up!"
Hicks talks about Mick Jagger ("a little effeminate billionaire elf"), Keith Richards, and his sarcastic admiration for punks:
I like punk rock. I don't like the music, but I like the people in it. I respect them. Most people are like "I don't like Reagan, but that's life". They got no spine. Punk rockers are like "Yeah, I don't like Reagan, so I think I'll stick a bone up me ass"Still, Hicks' growth as a comedian did parallel other cultural trends. Middle class pop dreams were overrun by punk's anger and frustration. Then, new wave would polish that anti-establishment edge and trade some anger for biting cleverness. Hicks would grow beyond his observational humor and anecdotes to develop into his anti-corporate/anti-bullshit punk phase.
From Jon Stewart to Doug Stanhope, Hicks' spirit is alive and well in our culture, even though he's gone. Pick up 12/16/61 from iTunes and spring for the box set later this month.