We are lifelong fans of the comedy of Bill Hicks and when we were invited to review the 3 DVD Box Set 'Ultimate Bill Hicks', we naturally jumped at the opportunity, This was soon plastered all over the web and the kind lady at the PR company asked if we'd like to interview Bill's brother (Steve Hicks) so we could unearth a few more nuggets of information and maybe get some answers to questions that we have held inside since his untimely passing way back in February 1994.
Below you will find the full, unedited interview, please take a few minutes to read and digest it and then go and buy the new Box Set and laugh yourself stupid at his legendary humour that appealed to so many all over the world....
MM - Bill's form of comedy was revolutionary in that he not only made people laugh, but also think about important issues. What do you think his routine would have been like nowadays with the glut of reality TV shows, continued gun-crime and the election of the first African-American president?
SH - I try not to speculate too much about what Bill would be doing these days, and sadly, he’s not here to let us know of course. There is one thing, though, I think we could all count on and that is that he would be doing it with his trademark passion. I think he would still be confronting the issues and injustices as he saw them.
MM - Bill of course died tragically young, yet never seemed to let cancer taint his talent for comedy, or stop him touring. While he only told a few people of his condition, do you feel his personal views on life and the world changed in any way when he was diagnosed?
SH - Hmmm...good question. Off stage, around the family, he was the same Bill, upbeat, powerful, passionate, and sure he was going to beat the cancer. Certainly, as evidenced on his last recording, 'Rant in E Minor', his comedy and messages became more pointed and intense, but who’s to say that wasn’t just the natural evolution of his comedy that he was moving towards anyway? There has always been a progression in the growth and substance of his material so this seemed in line with that. Up until he was just not physically able to go on, Bill remained the same Bill as we always knew; considerate and compassionate towards others; funny and smart; an engaging conversationalist, positive and upbeat that we would all witness a healing miracle over the cancer.
MM - Watching Bill's stand up performances in the box-set, is it an emotional experience for you, or one of pride that he brought joy to so many?
SH - Thanks for asking me that. I’d say it’s a bit of both. I spend so much time going through the hours of material of Bill’s we have to determine what we might want to release, that I can detach myself and just be objective about the best shows, which ones not to consider, what is good quality or bad, that kind of stuff. But it can be emotional in the sense that I don’t think one ever truly gets over losing a loved one, and particularly someone has strong as Bill; he’ll always be my little brother, that never goes away. But, yes, I am extremely proud of what Bill accomplished in his short life; it is amazing how much his legacy has grown over the years since his death and how much he and is work are appreciated around the world. I am very lucky and very appreciative that I get to play a little part in that.
MM - In the UK, we have many comedians who have done voiceover work and advertisements. After his classic skit on pop stars selling their souls for advertising, did Bill ever get approached to promote a product or business?
SH - Yes, he had been approached over here in the US to consider a few advertising opportunities and in the UK to promote Orange Drink!! Of course, his answer to any of that was a resounding NO. After Bill died, our family was approached by BMW; they wanted to use one of his bits in their ads; we said no to that as well. We will not license out Bill’s work to promote or advertise other products. He left us pretty clear on that wish.
MM - Do you have any developments on the biopic film of Bill's life? Do you have any preferences on who might play him if it goes ahead?
SH - Nothing specific; there’s always talk swirling around about this. I imagine that eventually something will probably be done-we’ve had a lot of conversations about it. As far as who might play him-no one specific in mind but I think for whoever it is, it will be a daunting challenge to capture and channel the passion and “play from your heart” persona that is the very essence of Bill. But, if someone can pull that off, it just might be decent.
MM - What is your personal favourite routine of Bill’s? Did he ever practise his material on you or ask for opinions?
SH - There are two that I have always really liked; one is where he says he’s told a religious joke and two guys come up to him after the show and say, Hey, we’re Christians and we don’t like what you said; Bill answers, Well, then forgive me! Perfect, succinct summation, in my opinion. Another one I always enjoyed, for the absurdity of it all, was where he suggests putting terminally ill patients in the movies-Do you want them to die in some sterile hospital room…….or, do you want them to meet Chuck Norris! Yes, Bill often ran material by me and our family and his friends; sometimes it would just be very conversational at first, like on a phone call or something. Then, he would develop that into a routine; one I remember like that was the waitress at the Waffle House bit; he was just telling me about that real incident on a phone call one night and the next thing you know, there it was in his act.
MM - Do you think Bill would have branched out into the world of acting off the back of his comedy?
SH - Again, I can’t say for sure exactly how Bill’s life would have continued to unfold; but, I don’t think it is unreasonable to think that acting opportunities might have come his way, and that pending the right circumstance, it would have interested him to pursue it.
MM - Bill was a fan of discussing conspiracy theories in his routines such as the Kennedy assassination and the Waco siege. Do you think he would have had a similar insight into the 9/11 terror attacks?
SH - I imagine he may have ripped that whole thing right apart!!
MM - Bill had a brief dabble in music in the early 90s with his 'Marble Head Johnson' album, with his friend Kevin Booth. Did he ever have plans to record any comedy songs or music?
SH - Well, Bill did write and record a lot of songs. We found a shoe box full of old cassette tapes of songs Bill had recorded. In 2010 we took all those to Abbey Road Studios in London and had them remastered. We released 10 of them as Lo-Fi Troubadour; all those songs were included on a download card in The Essential Collection set we put out in 2010. They are also all available for digital download on iTunes and Amazon. Also, six more of those songs have been included on the new box set as the DVD menu music. Many, many bands and musicians are acknowledged fans of Bill’s. There have been scores of songs written about him, or inspired by him. I always thought it would be a fun project to have other artists do a cover album of Bill’s original songs, just to highlight another aspect of Bill’s artistic and creative output. We’ll see if we could pull something like that together one day.
MM - What are your thoughts on Bill's falling out with fellow comic Denis Leary over him stealing material? They both approached topics such as drugs and smoking, but do you feel Leary was perhaps jealous of Bill's success?
SH - Not a whole lot of insights here other than what’s already been said about it. I know that it did bother Bill some at the time, but he moved on quickly and didn’t ever dwell on it. To this day, Leary denies any copying or stealing so I guess we just all still know what we know about it, right? We just celebrate Bill’s life and legacy; we’ll leave it to Leary’s fan to do the same for him.
MM - What would you say Bill's lasting legacy on the world is? Do you feel 'It's Just a Ride' is a good philosophy?
SH - There is a quote, something to the effect: Genius is the ability to make the complicated seem simple. I’ve always thought, in many ways, Bill possessed this. He was able to take an idea or point of view and distill it down to something that people found palatable and understandable. I think it is why so many of his ideas have hit the universe as one or two line capsules: Love all the People; It’s Just a Ride; Forgive Me; A War is When Two Armies are Fighting; Here’s Tom with the Weather; All Governments are lying cocksuckers-hahahaha!!!!....and so on. People who are familiar with Bill’s work know exactly what those things mean. I’ve always believed, too, that people connect with the goodness they sense in Bill, his heart, mind and concern for improvement by all of us. I tell everyone, he was a really good guy; fun to hang around with, considerate and nice to others, a real gentleman. I think that comes through in his work because he was never just some “comedian” on stage doing an act. He’s Bill, giving you himself. Over time, many kindred spirits (and the number keeps growing) throughout the world have connected with that. So, to me, his legacy is one of kindness and compassion, love, honesty, and awareness-be yourself!!
Thank you very much for letting me answers these questions. And, thanks for remembering Bill.
We'd like to extend a HUGE thank you to Steve for taking time out of his busy schedule to talk to us and shed a little more light over the questions that we've had for so long. If you're looking for a GREAT Christmas gift for any fan of classic comedy, this is it folks, get it added to your shopping carts to ensure that it arrives prior to the big day!
Interview by Pete & Steve Muscutt
Click HERE to be transported to Bill's YouTube page where you can relish some of the material that made him the legend that he is....