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The Essential CollectionBill Hicks

This is not only “The Essential Collection” in so far as it contains the essential bits by the great stand-up comedian Bill Hicks. It is also essential for anyone who likes stand-up comedy. But be forewarned: Bill Hicks’ humor was of the darkest variety, even so it is all the more funny. Unfortunately, Hicks – who was a major influence on alternative metal band Tool and honored as such on their 1996 album, “Ænima” – died at a much too early age in 1994. Commemorating the 18th anniversary of his death, Rykodisc has reissued Hicks’ albums, including this best-of collection. Of course, it is pointless to try and recount examples of his comedy, but listening to Hicks’ monologues (and dialogues with the audience as well) will put the listener in quite a philosophical mood, because Hicks was out to expand our horizon.

You have to be open-minded – and also be prepared to be offended, since Hicks was a genius at speaking the truth, at telling us how things really are, without the obstruction of civility. Like the much tamer (and much more successful) Jerry Seinfeld, Hicks observed cultural and social phenomena, situations from everyday life, to comment on them and take them apart. With his eloquent delivery, he was not only dead on, he makes us see how bizarre and ridiculous the excesses of modern life can be. A true child of the counterculture, Hicks’ satire was brimming with social criticism, his message clearly to question authority and rules, especially the doctrine that “drugs are bad.” If you’re familiar with Tool you might already know his bit, “Drugs Have Done Good Things,” that references drugs as major inspiration for creative minds, musicians above all.

He advises us to mistrust the bias of the media (“The News”) and holds up the distorting mirror of satire to consumer society (“Marketing and Advertising,” “Orange Drink”). Included are his dead-on take on the George Bush administration (“Ding Dong”), “Kennedy & The Warren Commission” and hilarious bits about smokers and non-smokers, religion, pop stars and much more. And, because Bill Hicks was also a musician, the collection features 11 of his songs, too. The bad thing is: His observations are still relevant today, as the world seems to have only gotten worse in the last twenty years.

Bill Hicks was taken from us much too early, but the cancer couldn’t shut him up. We still have is recordings to enjoy and help us expand our minds, make us more aware. Please, let me quote Henry Rollins, another fan, on Bill Hicks: “He was hilarious, brilliant, brave and right about everything.” “The Essential Collection” gives you almost four hours of his excellent, challenging material. But, be warned again: It’s dark – truly offensive. But, it’s also true. Maybe that’s why it’s so hard to digest. Misanthropy never was so funny. Additional Warning: When listening to this while driving, the hazards of causing a car accident may increase acutely. Also, listening to this on the bus or subway may draw curious looks, when you’re choking up with laughter.

Klaas Ilse | Apr 2, 2012
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