On April Fools’ Day: Celebrating America’s Irreplaceable Court Jester

Take this joke, please.

Or this one:

Funny, for sure. But cut with way more than a sliver of dead seriousness.

This is what Bill Hicks brought to the planet, and what we lost when he died (cancer) at the ludicrous, offensive, unbearably young age of 32.

I’ve written at length, on a couple of occasions, concerning the genius of Bill Hicks (you can see the full pieces HERE, and HERE), and it might suffice to say I consider him one of the genuine, irreplaceable cultural iconoclasts of the last half-century.

It’s a crying shame that Bill Hicks is no longer with us; we sure could use him right about now.

It’s a laughing shame (the sort where you laugh until you cry) when it occurs to you —and if you’re a Hicks fan it’s always occurring to you— how relevant his material remains. Of course this has less to do with Hicks and more to do with us: our collective chicanery copies itself, evolving with each succession of charlatans who occupy our public offices. And, naturally, there is never a shortage of slack-jawed and self-righteous types in our media, our academic institutions and especially our self-worshipping entertainment industry. In fact, as they get better (i.e., worse) with each new wave of mutilation, truth tellers like Hicks are more essential, if elusive, than ever. And his routines and ineffable one-liners still kill, allowing you to actually laugh while you weep.

When we discuss our departed artistic MVPs, too often it involves the clichéd and tragicomic self-induced sabotage by drugs or drink. More distressing, and inexplicable, are the geniuses who are almost cruelly snatched out of their own rarefied air. Hicks, though he had an appetite for destruction for many years, was clean, sober and stalking the world like a lion when Fate intervened. Life is just a ride, he often said at the end of his shows. He knew it and was probably better prepared for it, however short it turned out to be. Perhaps, in the final analysis, it wasn’t so much that he died but became, suddenly, extinct. We certainly won’t ever see anything like him again in this world.


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