on 8 April 2005
Well if you've clicked on this link odds are that you already know about our friend the Goatboy. This book is an absolute must have for any Hick's fans out there, perhaps the most in depth account of Bill's life there's ever been. I also read and loved 'American Scream' but Agent of Evolution is packed with far more insights and shared memories from Bill's closest friends, his past loves, the Outlaws and many more. It's a very personal account by Kevin Booth that isn't just a halo polishing exercise for Bill, it gives an account that shows that despite his often god-like status Bill could be as human as the rest of us. Any self respecting Hick's fan and Goat Child needs to have this on their shelf, tucked in warmly between Sane Man, Ninja bachelor Party and ClamLappers volumes 1-90. Buy it now!!
on 24 June 2005
Im going to break from the trend here and rate this book 3 stars because I was personally so underwhelmed by something Ive literally waited years for. I remember getting giddy in anticipation when I read Kevin Booth was writing a very personal biography of one of my favourite comedians of all time. Ive been a Hicks fan for a good few years now, devouring everything available to me including the sub-par biog from Cynthia True but Agent of Evolution made me feel hungry for something more.
The book itself is structured well enough with Hicks' life, loves and personal failures shown in an understanding light by both Bertin and Booth. But it just lacks something. Maybe its because anything worthwhile about Hicks' life has been written about by so many people already, not even the perspective of his real friends can add anything to a man we all seem to pretend to know so well.
But we dont, of course, know him. Which is why such biogs are valuable. But aside from the occaisional annecdote or insight into who Bill Hicks was, the book is thin on new information. Between the Just A Ride documentary, the mahr letters and True's book, everything has been covered already.
Were my expectations too high? Maybe.
Kevin Booth, a guy who I had a great deal of respect for (primarily for keeping the Hicks legacy alive via Sacred Cow Productions), seems to become the focus of the latter few chapters. Theres a hurricane of bitterness in Booth's words, towards a number of targets such as Bill's parents, other friends of Hicks & also, what I interpreted as a feeling of underappreciation or overshadowing of Booth's work. He'll always be know as Bill Hicks' best made rather than the producer/musician status that he craves. I dont think Booth is blameworthy for his feelings and you cant knock him for sharing them, but they do detract from the book. At least when I read it.
But I guess the redemption comes because its firstly a book about Hicks. Anything celebrating the man will always be welcomes by me. Even if I felt a bit empty when I finished it. Its worth buying if you consider yourself a Hicks fan and a completionist, but otherwise maybe wait until it comes out in Paperback. Secondly, if you're new to Hicks or want to know more about the man then this is probably the start you've been praying for. But for those that feel them 'know' the story of how Hicks came to be Hicks, I just felt let down.
Its a shame because I found it enjoyable enough, touching at times, but at the risk of sounding like a fat kid at a pizza shop: it just wasnt enough.
on 20 January 2006
Hands down this is the best tome on Bill Hicks around. I enjoyed Love All the People, but the bulk of it was comedy routines. Who wants to read stand-up? Parts of American Scream were okay, but it read more like a long piece from People magazine.
This book, however, is all Hicks (as told by the people closest to him). And he just oozes out of every page. It was so refreshing to see how human Bill really was. Rather than demistify him, it almost elevated his status in that someone with such normal fears and fascinations became one of the greatest comics of a generation (and whose jokes are still relevant today). After reading it I felt like I had spent time around him, which is maybe the highest compliment I can pay the authors.
This book is superbly craftet and I can't recommend it enough.
on 18 December 2006
You know you are reading a good book when the narrative pulls you in and are fully engaged in its story ."Agent of evolution"the biography of comedian Bill Hicks,written by his life long friend Kevin Booth fully succeeds in giving an emotive roller coaster ride of Hicks's life. A very personel and candid account indeed. The authors friendship with hicks started at school and remained close throughout,until his untimely death. Booth was clearly best qualified to write the comics life story.The visits to the brothels for some carnal pleasures had me laughing out aloud,and bills drunken/drug fuelled behaviour,the parties, long nights, well its a long list but Booth does not shy away from telling it all. there is no sweet and sugary treatment in this biography,its warts and all, and i hazard a guess that the author may have found the writing of some sections in this book a somewhat carthartic process.The inclusion of Hicks's many friends and associates who's accounts of him works well in shaping the form and tone of this biography,as many contributers are interconnected to one degree or another with booth and hicks, and helps to give a fuller picture of the comedian.The aptly named" Agent of evolution" was such an enjoyable and revealing read and anyone familiar with hicks's work, will find this book to be an absolute gem.
on 16 August 2005
Like the rest of the reviewers this is a book that I've anticipated for many years. It's certainly big enough, there's certainly enough stories about Bill but at the end of it I felt no closer to Bill than at the start.
Perhaps it's because the stories are simply that - an endless series of generic "guy" stories his mates tell which could be about anybody. Bill is reduced to an endless series of pub stories rather than a human being. Here's the tale of Bill doing coke, here's the tale of Bill injecting himself with heroin. What would have been more interesting in is WHY Bill was injecting himself with heroin, WHY sacred mushrooms meant the world to him. WHY he'd rather take mushrooms than take the biggest break of his entire career. What's missing is the emotional depth and background that would make you interested in the guys life, the reason why Bill was always so human and touching while a million other comics who do similar material are just obnoxious.
We learn practically nothing about the origins of Bill's comedy. How he developed his riffs, how he worked on the material and honed it, his physical comedy, his voices. We hear an enormous amount about his mediocre attempts at music which usually have Kevin Booth to the fore.
After looking forward to this book for years I found myself half-heartedly picking it up and almost forcing myself to read it in order to get to the end to just say "There, I've read it". It's a book where everything is seen through Kevin Booth's eyes. And for all the fact that Kevin Booth was Bill's mate it's apparent that he has very little in common with Bill. Booth doesn't have a sense of humour, he hasn't known pain like Bill, he isn't as passionate or anywhere near as intelligent or humble as Bill. My take is that Booth understands Bill even less than an average fan would. In the end this reads more like the Kevin Booth story than the Bill Hicks story.
No magic, no humour, no empathy. A major disappointment.
on 14 June 2005
At long last, the definitive biography of the late American comedian and political philosopher Bill Hicks has been published. Written by his lifelong friend Kevin Booth, Bill Hicks: Agent of Evolution is an inside look at the fast times and early death of a comedic genius. When I spoke with Kevin for the interview that appeared in Maybe Quarterly # 02 (Spring Equinox 2005), he told me that he wrote the book by dictating "Bill stories" into a microcassette recorder as he took his pet wolves for their daily afternoon walk. This was a long process of remembering earlier days that had become clouded by both the partying and legend that now surrounds Bill Hicks, and Kevin mentioned that the process of writing this book took approximately five years.
As for the book itself, Kevin, having admitted that he is not a writer, worked with Austin, Texas USA entertainment writer Michael Bertin, who co-authored the book. However, Kevin has done something that Cynthia True could not achieve with her tepid biography American Scream, and that is to take the reader far into the private and personal life of Bill Hicks. Kevin was, after all, his lifelong friend, co-writer, and business partner. Together, Kevin and Bill co-founded Sacred Cow Productions, which continues on to this very day in Bill's memory. Today, the Sacred Cow website is the premiere Internet comedy website, which features the comedy of Joe Rogan and Doug Stanhope, as well as the truth-telling of broadcaster-documentary filmmaker Alex Jones of Infowars.com and Prisonplanet.com. Sacred Cow also contains numerous early audio and video performances of Bill Hicks, and for this reason alone, the website should be investigated and bookmarked by all of Bill's fans.
Kevin has been a tireless promoter of the memory and legacy of Bill Hicks, and he was wise to save all of his great inside stories for his own book. This was one of the failings of American Scream, which seemed to me a rote, perfunctory biography, with little in terms of true revelations concerning the life of Bill Hicks. For example, there is the legendary true-story of Bill and Kevin's Harmonic Convergence experience of the summer of 1987. This was the UFO experience about which Bill often spoke in his stage act. While Cynthia True reported this episode through hearsay alone, in Agent of Evolution, Kevin takes us directly to the Booth family ranch for what he himself described as "the most important event of Bill's life." I won't ruin the books' many surprises, but suffice to say that Kevin brings this event into proper perspective, where he describes total telepathic communication between Bill and himself, while they were both aboard a UFO. One might even imagine that this event was itself precipitated by the five-gram heroic dose of psychedelic mushrooms they both had taken earlier that same afternoon.
And so it goes for nearly 450 pages of interesting and amusing anecdotes, legendary encounters with various geniuses of comedy, and the loving tribute by a man who desperately misses his lifelong friend and spiritual brother. The reader is taken on a trip in the metaphoric backseat of the Hicks rocket-ride to fame and infamy, and all of the humanity and romanticism of Bill Hicks the humanist is represented in a faithful and loving manner. Kevin also provides insight into the demons that haunted Bill Hicks, and the angels that guided his career and life.
The best part of the entire book is where Kevin refuses to limit Bill to a two-dimensional cardboard cutout, where his life and early death could have been represented as a tragedy. Kevin also refuses to amplify the David Letterman censored Bill Hicks canard, and just as he told me personally during our interview, the Letterman incident was a minor issue that was blown all out of proportion merely because of Hicks untimely death. As Kevin said, "if he were alive today, we'd be laughing about this minor incident."
Some of the more interesting sections of the book provided details about Bill and Kevin's comedic Dark Side of the Moon, the incendiary and brilliant Arizona Bay. For those readers who are unfamiliar with the concept, Arizona Bay will be the resultant West Coast, once California, but more specifically, Los Angeles, finally falls into the ocean. Arizona Bay represented the creative symbiosis between Bill and Kevin, comedy and music, and ultimately, truth and lies. Perhaps it is no coincidence that Hollywood propaganda originates from this very state of California? Listening to Arizona Bay, it is easy to imagine the contempt that Bill had for the illusory Hollywood star-making machinery, and this book fills in the aspects about which I had always wondered.
Anyone who treasures the memory of Bill Hicks should pick up a copy of this book, as it was prepared in the most loving and respectful manner possible. The reader and Bill Hicks fan will learn more about what made Bill tick as an artist, whether it was music or comedy, or both. While it is sad that Bill is no longer here with us, I personally take solace in the idea that he is still busy at work, albeit on the other side, as for Bill Hicks in death, just as it was in life, his spiritual work is never done.