Bill Hicks’s comedy legacy deserves a look.
AMERICAN: THE BILL HICKS STORY (Matt Harlock, Paul Thomas). 106 minutes. Opens Friday (April 15). See listing. Rating: NNN
The terrible irony of Bill Hicks's death - at age 32 from pancreatic cancer - is that he just missed the internet. YouTube would have been the perfect vehicle for his bilious stand-up. Instead, he came up just before the web took off and found himself marginalized by corporate television interests unwilling to help him spread his gospel.
Hicks packed a great deal into his 32 years, starting as a teen stand-up in Texas and going through his struggling-alcoholic phase in his early 20s before kicking booze and reinventing himself as an excoriating truth-teller, only to see his material prove too contentious for the nervous networks.
American: The Bill Hicks Story aims to restore Hicks to his proper place in the pantheon, using interviews with his friends and family - brought to life via elaborate photo animation - to recreate the breadth of the Texas-raised comic's life.
Directors Matt Harlock and Paul Thomas's insistence on proceeding chronologically through Hicks's artistic development means we don't get to the good stuff for a very long time, but when we do it's worth it. Hicks had a great voice - lucid, perceptive and outraged - and it's great to hear it again.