In his last years, the comedian Bill Hicks (1961-1994) became something of a profound philosopher, with his thoughts and feelings about life, mediated through the outer garb of the 'stand-up' comedy circuit. His work has the unusual dual attributes of being both intellectual, and yet at the sametime, absolutely accessible to all and sundry. He often criticised conventional religion, whilst simultaneously advocating the exploration of a deep, broad and open spirituality. He spoke often about the possiBility of the existence of UFO's, and the requirement for humanity to evolve to the next level of conscious being. Hicks experimented with magic mushrooms a number of times in his life. The experiences he encountered confirmed for him that:
'We are all one consciousness, subjectively experiencing itself, through the illusion of Self.'
Bill Hicks describes his comic influences as emanating from Woody Allen, Richard Pryor and Lenny Bruce. His style of creating humour has been described as Jazz-like, and something akin to the artistry and creativity displayed by the famous musician, Bob Dylon. This 2-disc film presents a reliable historical narrative based around the testament of close friends and family members, which depicts the background life of Bill Hicks, as well as the observable development of his comic skills. He began performing in front of adults at the age of 13, and by the time he passed away at the age of just 33 years, he had been touring the USA and Europe for nearly 20 years. Ironically, near the end of his life, he became very well known and appreciated in the UK - even performing at Oxford University - but remained on the fringes of the comedy circuit in his own country. As a son of southern Baptists, he had the unusual ability to objectivise his own life predicament specifically, as well as American culture in general. He described himself as being politically 'to the left', and often criticised US foreign policy and war mongering, with many sketches talking about the American obsession with gun ownership, and the apparent inability of the American pokitical right to associate the 'ownership' of fire-arms, with the 'use' of those very same fire-arms in the killing of thousands of people in the US every year.
He explored both inner and outer space, even attending a course studying Eastern Philosophy. His friends speaks of his interest in meditation as a practice, and how he would always be thinking about the 'divine' in all things. This meant that he carried with him, various books of an up-lifting intellectual and spiritual nature. Due to his perceived liberal attitude to drugs, alcohol and smoking, he was often offered free cocaine and dirnks at gigs. Hicks had talked about mind expansion through meditation, intellectual development and chemical assistance. Alcohol and cocaine however, are substances that close-off perception and offer instead, the charade of sensual intensification for a time. These two substances do not carry the mind freeing experiences that Hicks encountered with his magic-mushroom experimentation. The performances from Hicks at this time become ever-more expressive of angst, depression and despair, but at no time do these performances ever lose their connectivity to the unique essence of the genius of Bill Hicks. It may be uncomfortable to see a human being lying flat on stage, screaming into a microphone over and over again, but Hicks used humour to express the full range of human emotional experience. As with everything Hicks did, he viewed it as a step on his path of conscious evolution. Eventually, he gave-up the drugs and alcohol, only to realise that he was dying from cancer - an illness that was probably not helped by his chain smoking.
The 2-disc edition of this film is 101 minutes long, however, the second disc contains over 5 hours of extra material that often amount to entire documentaries in their own right. The extras include:
1) 30 minutes of unseen footage, and rare clips from Bill's career, that are very funny.
2) 3 hours of extended interviews that present the life story again, in a compact, and highly informative format.
3) Bill's personal audio diaries (includes the indepth Nick Doody interview from 1992, which is surprisingly frank and insightful).
4) Trailers & audience reactions.
5) 6 deleted animation scenes.
In these extras we learn that Hicks, whilst drunk one night, got into a fight with a kilted Scotsman - the outcome of which resulted in Hicks receiving a broken leg! Watching the early films and seeing his parents both then and now, the viewer develops an appreciation of just how the presence of Bill Hicks the extra-ordinary human being, with all his weaknesses and strengths, never once abandoned his sincere honesty, and it is this strand of his character that was never obscured by his outer circumstance. He wanted things to be better for everyone, and in this aspiration lies the compassion that fuelled his honesty. In his short life, Bill Hicks achieved more than many others. This film is definitive due to its intimacy. Those who speak - know what they are talking about. Bill Hicks is not just a person who once lived, his professional persona is nothing short of that of a transpersonal experience. An excellent film and a superb tribute to Bill Hicks.