There are few stand-ups in the history of comedy who possessed more passion and vitriol than Bill Hicks. As with all the greats (Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Richard Pryor) he pushed the art-form to its limits, extracting alchemical gold from some of the darkest aspects of the human psyche. Nothing was untouchable. Everything from the war on drugs to the abortion debate to television being ‘Lucifer’s Dream Box’ were covered during his seemingly off-the-hook but meticulously well-crafted stage performances. At one point he actually displayed footage he shot himself of the tragedy in Waco Texas to demonstrate how the media distorts the truth and crafts propaganda to fit its agenda. One need only watch a handful of his performances to get a clear idea of his on-stage persona as an angry, outside-of-the box thinker with a razor-sharp mind and wits set on ‘kill’.
While it’s safe to say that all of this was birthed by the same deep psychological drive that fuels most comedic genius — a passionate need to publicly strip the world of pretence and simply tell the truth — at the core of his message was one thing: heart. He could see the extreme lack of love, compassion and understanding this world suffers from and it was this that drove him to the stage more than anything else. It was a deep yearning. His high school friend, Kevin Booth is quoted as saying: “Bill was the first person I ever met whose goal was to become enlightened.” Indeed. From John Lahr’s piece in The New Yorker, Goat Boy Rises:
“At various times in his life, Hicks had meditated, studied Hindu texts, gobbled hallucinogens, searched for U.F.O.s—anything to make some larger spiritual and intellectual connection.”
In the end, however, the source of his brilliance also ended up being one of his greatest demons. The level of pain and cynicism in some of his performances is unsettling, to say the least. During a lifetime of dissecting and analyzing the overwhelming negativity of the world, it seems Hicks was unable to keep it from seeping into his own, undoubtedly overly-sensitive soul. Tragically, he died of pancreatic cancer at the young age of 32.
Here, then, are 15 quotes from the dark and ingenious mind of Bill Hicks…
- Folks, it’s time to evolve. That’s why we’re troubled. You know why our institutions are failing us, the church, the state, everything’s failing? It’s because, um – they’re no longer relevant. We’re supposed to keep evolving. Evolution did not end with us growing opposable thumbs. You do know that, right?
- Watching television is like taking black spray paint to your third eye.
- We all pay for life with death, so everything in between should be free.
- To me, the comic is the guy who says ‘Wait a minute’ as the consensus forms… he’s the antithesis of the mob mentality. The comic is a flame—like Shiva the Destroyer, toppling idols no matter what they are. He keeps cutting everything back to the moment.
- The world is like a ride in an amusement park. And when you choose to go on it, you think it’s real because that’s how powerful our minds are. And the ride goes up and down and round and round. It has thrills and chills and it’s very brightly coloured and it’s very loud and it’s fun, for a while. Some people have been on the ride for a long time and they begin to question: ‘Is this real, or is this just a ride?’ And other people have remembered, and they come back to us, they say: Hey, don’t worry, don’t be afraid, ever, because this is just a ride. And we kill those people.
- It’s just a ride and we can change it any time we want. It’s only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings and money, a choice, right now, between fear and love. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your door, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love instead see all of us as one.
- I believe that there is an equality to all humanity. We all suck.
- This is where we are at right now, as a whole. No one is left out of the loop. We are experiencing a reality based on a thin veneer of lies and illusions. A world where greed is our God and wisdom is sin, where division is key and unity is fantasy, where the ego-driven cleverness of the mind is praised, rather than the intelligence of the heart…
- It’s all about money, not freedom… Nothing to do with freedom. If you think you’re free, try going somewhere without money, okay?
- We are facilitators of our creative evolution. We can ignite our brains with light.
- I ascribe to Mark Twain’s theory that the last person who should be President is the one who wants it the most. The one who should be picked is the one who should be dragged kicking and screaming into the White House.
- Wouldn’t you like to see a positive LSD story on the news? To base your decision on information rather than scare tactics and superstition? Perhaps? Wouldn’t that be interesting? Just for once? ‘Today, a young man on acid realized that all matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration – that we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively. There’s no such thing as death, life is only a dream, and we’re the imagination of ourselves. Here’s Tom with the weather.’
- Channel Four wants our first show to somehow tie in with this celebration of the birth of Democracy two thousand years ago. Democracy may have been born then, I just can’t wait till it starts speaking and walking.
- I’m gonna share with you a vision that I had, cause I love you. And you feel it. You know all that money we spend on nuclear weapons and defense each year, trillions of dollars, correct? Instead — just play with this — if we spent that money feeding and clothing the poor of the world — and it would pay for it many times over, not one human being excluded — we could explore space together, both inner and outer, forever, in peace.
- I left in love, in laughter, and in truth, and wherever truth, love, and laughter abide, I am there in spirit.