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Bill Hicks
Bill Hicks at the Laff Stop in Austin, Texas, 1991 (2) cropped.jpg
Hicks at The Laff Stop in 1991
Birth name William Melvin Hicks
Born (1961-12-16)December 16, 1961
Valdosta, Georgia, U.S.
Died February 26, 1994(1994-02-26) (aged 32)
Little Rock, Arkansas, U.S.
Medium Comedian, musician
Years active 1978–1994
Genres Dark comedy, political satire, observational comedy
Subject(s) American culture, American politics, current events, pop culture, philosophy, religion, spirituality, conspiracy theories, consumerism
Signature Bill Hicks Signature.gif

William Melvin Hicks (December 16, 1961 – February 26, 1994) was an American stand-up comedian, social critic, satirist, and musician. He also achieved some recognition as a guitarist and songwriter.

Hicks died of pancreatic cancer on February 26, 1994, at the age of 32. In subsequent years, his work gained significant acclaim in creative circles—particularly after a series of posthumous album releases—and he developed a substantial cult following. In 2007, he was number six on Channel 4's list of the "100 Greatest Stand-Up Comics", and rose to No. 4 on the 2010 list. In 2017, Rolling Stone magazine ranked him number 13 on its list of the 50 best stand-up comics of all time.

Early life

Hicks was born in Valdosta, Georgia, the son of James Melvin "Jim" Hicks (1923–2006) and Mary (Reese) Hicks. He had an older sister, Lynn, and an older brother, Steve. The family lived in Alabama, Florida, and New Jersey, before settling in Houston, Texas, when Hicks was seven years old. He was drawn to comedy at an early age, emulating Woody Allen and Richard Pryor, and wrote routines with his friend Dwight Slade. While attending Stratford High School, he began performing comedy (mostly derivations of Woody Allen material) for his classmates. At home, he wrote his own one-liners and slid them under the bedroom door of Steve, who he thought was a genius, for critical analysis. Steve told him, "Keep it up. You're really good at this."

He was close with his family his whole life.



Hicks was associated with the Texas Outlaw Comics group developed at the Comedy Workshop in Houston in the 1980s.

California and New York

His career received another upturn in 1987, however, when he appeared on Rodney Dangerfield's Young Comedians Special. The same year, he moved to New York City, and for the next five years, performed about 300 times a year.

In 1988, Hicks signed with his first professional business manager, Jack Mondrus.

In 1989, he released his first video, Sane Man.

Early fame

Bill Hicks at the Laff Stop in Austin, Texas, 1991
Hicks at the Laff Stop in 1991

In 1990, Hicks released his first album, Dangerous. Hicks was also part of a group of American stand-up comedians performing in London's West End in November. Hicks was a huge hit in the UK and Ireland and continued touring there throughout 1991. That year, he returned to Just for Laughs and filmed his second video, Relentless.

Hicks made a brief detour into musical recording with the Marble Head Johnson album in 1992, collaborating with Houston high school friend Kevin Booth and Austin, Texas, drummer Pat Brown. During the same year, he toured the UK, where he recorded the Revelations video for Britain's Channel 4. Hicks moved to Los Angeles in 1992.

Material and style

Hicks's performance style was seen as a play on his audience's emotions. He expressed anger, disgust, and apathy while addressing the audience in a casual and personal manner, which he likened to merely conversing with his friends. He would invite his audiences to challenge authority and the existential nature of "accepted truth." Much of Hicks's routine involved direct attacks on mainstream society, religion, politics, and consumerism.

Illness and death

On June 16, 1993, Hicks was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He performed the final show of his career at Caroline's in New York on January 6, 1994; he moved back to his parents' house in Little Rock shortly thereafter. In his last weeks, he re-read J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, and made telephone calls to friends to say goodbye.

Hicks died on February 26, 1994, in Little Rock at the age of 32. He was buried in the family grave plot in Magnolia Cemetery, Leakesville, Mississippi.


His albums Arizona Bay and Rant in E-Minor were released posthumously in 1997 on the Voices imprint of the Rykodisc label. Dangerous and Relentless were re-released simultaneously.

In a 2005 poll to find the Comedian's Comedian, comedians and comedy insiders voted Hicks 13th on their list of "The Top 20 Greatest Comedy Acts Ever". In "Comedy Central Presents: 100 Greatest Stand-ups of All Time" (2004), Hicks was ranked 19th. In March 2007, he was voted sixth on Britain's Channel 4 list of the 100 Greatest Stand-Up Comics, and rose to number four on the 2010 list.

Devotees have incorporated Hicks's words, image, and attitude into their own creations. By means of audio sampling, fragments of his rants, diatribes, social criticisms, and philosophies have found their way into many musical works.

Comedians who have cited Hicks as an inspiration include Joe Rogan, Dave Attell, Lewis Black, Patton Oswalt, David Cross, Russell Brand, Ron White, Frankie Boyle, Jimmy Dore, and Brendon Burns. The political cartoonist "Mr. Fish" described in 2022 how he learned from Bill Hicks.

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Bill Hicks para niños

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