Friday, December 10, 2010

American Scream: The Bill Hicks Story, by Cynthia True

(pb; 2002; biography. Foreword by Janeane Garofalo)

From the back cover:

"Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, Andy Kaufman -- add Bill Hicks to that list of brilliant, fearless comics. Just emerging from underground cult status when he died at age thirty-two, Bill Hicks spent most of his life making audiences roar -- and censors cringe -- with biting social satire about everything from former president George Bush to rock stars who hawk diet Coke. His nervy talent redefined the boundaries of comedy in the '80s and won him a list of admirers that includes John Cleese, George Carlin, and Thom Yorke of [the band] Radiohead.

"This posthumous biography reveals for the first time what made Bill Hicks tick -- what made him laugh, what pissed him off, and what he saw as his ultimate mission: to release people from their prison of ignorance. From his first comedy gig at Bible camp to his infamous cancellation on The Late Show with David Letterman, Cynthia True portrays an artist whose outrage, drive, and compassion fueled a controversial body of work that still resonates today."

Review:

Excellent biography, as intense as its subject. Hicks comes off as someone who strove to be more than just a joke-teller; he was a literate spiritual philosopher, who, for a time, loved drugs, all the while seeking to combat collective (often religious) ignorance, kneejerk uber-patriotism, and unthinking political and social conservatism.

Often savage and pornographic in his rock n' roll-themed stage act, Hicks was a friend of Sam Kinison (with whom he shared similar comedic sensibilities) and Denis Leary, who, in his 1993 No Cure For Cancer routine, ripped off Hicks' "kill talentless rock stars" riffs (from Hicks' 1989 Dangerous set).

It's a cliché, but in Hicks' case, it's true: he was ahead of his time, and, as the book's back blurb notes, his often-hilarious, sharp commentaries are still applicable to today's American society.

Check this out.

3 comments:

Strummed Words said...

Love the title: American Scream.

Steve Isaak said...

I like the title, too.

It fits, given some of the startling, spine-chilling noise effects Hicks made during his routines. :)

KB said...

I love biographies, Shame he died so young.

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