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July 23, 2012 10:04 AM   Subscribe

Russell Crowe has signed on to make his feature film directorial debut - a biopic about the life of the late US comedian Bill Hicks.

Crowe will not portray the comedian himself and is considering actors for the role.

Trailer for American: The Bill Hicks Story documentary

Bill Hicks previously on Metafilter.
posted by mediated self (105 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
This seems like a mismatch on a lot of levels, but not least because Crowe seems to work in the movie money stratosphere, and I'd be surprised if Hicks were popular enough (outside of Metafilter) to garner a substantial amount of money for his biopic. But I have no idea how movie money works, maybe Crowe has a commitment from a studio that would be independent of his choice of subject matter.
posted by OmieWise at 10:10 AM on July 23, 2012


Well I certainly hope they don't plan on marketing or advertising this movie.

Also: Cast Ron Livingston after a 3 year bender.
posted by 2bucksplus at 10:10 AM on July 23, 2012 [6 favorites]


I'd be surprised if Hicks were popular enough (outside of Metafilter) to garner a substantial amount of money for his biopic.

Dying young is all you need to meet biopic eligibility requirements.
posted by Egg Shen at 10:13 AM on July 23, 2012 [6 favorites]


It's got Oscar movie all over it.
posted by Artw at 10:14 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


BTW, I would thoroughly recommend American.
posted by Artw at 10:16 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


They're casting Denis Leary to play Hicks.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 10:16 AM on July 23, 2012 [72 favorites]


Bill Hicks Fighting Around The World?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:17 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


This could be Jerry O'Connell's Jake La Motta.
posted by Beardman at 10:17 AM on July 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'd be surprised if Hicks were popular enough

I dunno, pretty much anyone who's in to standup beyond the most superficial level seems pretty sure that Bill Hicks was Jesus, and we missed it.

However, I can't think of one actor even remotely appropriate to play Bill Hicks. It's gonna have to be someone out of left field... Benicio Del Toro? I dunno.
posted by cmoj at 10:19 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Who are they going to get to play Dennis Leary?
posted by Grimgrin at 10:20 AM on July 23, 2012 [10 favorites]


Ron Livingston after a 3 year bender

For years I've been saying a puffy Joseph Gordon Levitt could do it. Whether he'd want to go all DeNiro-Old LaMotta, however...
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:20 AM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ha! I was just going to mention Levitt.
posted by Artw at 10:21 AM on July 23, 2012


I look forward to seeing the hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of advertising and marketing that will support this major motion picture.
posted by Shepherd at 10:22 AM on July 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


I dunno, pretty much anyone who's in to standup beyond the most superficial level seems pretty sure that Bill Hicks was Jesus, and we missed it.

Pretty much anyone not American, really. In the UK he was a god, and from Russel's interest is assume the same of Aus/NZ.
posted by Artw at 10:22 AM on July 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


I dunno, pretty much anyone who's in to standup beyond the most superficial level seems pretty sure that Bill Hicks was Jesus, and we missed it.

I can't think of a single person I know who isn't either into standup, or a denizen of a few select internet sites, who knows who Bill Hicks even is. Like no realization that there ever was a Bill Hicks, that he did anything at all, that he died young...nothing.

On preview: That's interesting about the UK. I guess what I'm wondering is whether there is really an audience for this movie (maybe international?) or whether it only seems like there is because 20 of your closest internet friends think Hicks is awesome. (FWIW, I like Hicks.)
posted by OmieWise at 10:24 AM on July 23, 2012


is considering actors for the role.

Take Dom Irrera's mug and Patton Oswalt's voice and we might just have the comic actor to portray Hicks. Any love for Aaron Paul?
posted by wensink at 10:26 AM on July 23, 2012


Well, Tool hasn't released an album for a while in America and all those people have money just burning in their pocket.
posted by griphus at 10:27 AM on July 23, 2012 [6 favorites]


They should cast a virus with shoes.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:28 AM on July 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


Any love for Aaron Paul?

I loved him in Highlander: The Series.
posted by The Tensor at 10:29 AM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also, I'm pretty sure that if I turned my "the amount of identification with/vocal enthusiasm for Bill Hicks is inversely proportional to one's ability to be tolerated in good company" theory into a research paper, I'd get hella grant money.
posted by griphus at 10:30 AM on July 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


Am I the only person who thinks Hicks was kind of a fool? Mostly because of his idiotic piece on drugs.
posted by thelonius at 10:30 AM on July 23, 2012


You'll have to narrow down which piece on drugs.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:32 AM on July 23, 2012 [14 favorites]


I dunno, pretty much anyone who's in to standup beyond the most superficial level seems pretty sure that Bill Hicks was Jesus, and we missed it.

Only those at the second most superficial level, I think. Hicks was a fine comic, but his legend far outstrips his body of work. The notion that greatness in standup derives from play the polemicist seems to neglect much of the importance of humour as an art form. Ridiculing the powerful and the corrupt is an important artistic goal, but so are the other, subtler purposes to which humour can be put. Hicks tended to miss the mark on effective self-satire, and (partly through performing essentially the same show for the majority of his "mainstream" career) rarely managed to effectively subvert his audiences' expectations.

I'm it disparaging Hicks by any means, we could use more like him (ask Dennis Leary!), but the messianic legend really isn't supported by the recordings.
posted by howfar at 10:33 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Am I the only person who thinks Hicks was kind of a fool? Mostly because of his idiotic piece on drugs.

Survey says: Yes.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:33 AM on July 23, 2012 [16 favorites]


This seems like a mismatch on a lot of levels, but not least because Crowe seems to work in the movie money stratosphere, and I'd be surprised if Hicks were popular enough (outside of Metafilter) to garner a substantial amount of money for his biopic.

...because John Forbes Nash, prior to A Beautiful Mind, was on the cover of People magazine frequently or something?
posted by mightygodking at 10:33 AM on July 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


*I'm not
posted by howfar at 10:34 AM on July 23, 2012


The one where he seems to seriously assert that they are responsible for good music. Paul McCartney was smoking dope like a roadie for Steel Pulse when he wrote "Simply Having a Wonderful Christmastime", you know.
posted by thelonius at 10:34 AM on July 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


Does the fact that it is Russell Crowe's directorial debut necessarily mean that it will be a major motion picture or have a large advertising campaign, etc.? I'm not a movie expert or buff, but I thought there was precedent for a noted actor to direct a small, indy art-house film. I'm not expecting a Man on the Moon like movie that was made about Andy Kaufman. I'm expecting something much smaller because the audience for Hicks is much smaller.
posted by dios at 10:34 AM on July 23, 2012


Who are they going to get to play Denis Leary?

Willem Dafoe
posted by The World Famous at 10:36 AM on July 23, 2012 [19 favorites]


I'd be surprised if Hicks were popular enough (outside of Metafilter) to garner a substantial amount of money for his biopic.

I've never once heard of him outside of Metafilter.
posted by octothorpe at 10:38 AM on July 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


...because John Forbes Nash, prior to A Beautiful Mind, was on the cover of People magazine frequently or something?

No, he was a Nobel laureate with a life so inherently interesting that it had been the subject of a Pulitzer-nominated biography that was then made into a film.

But, yes, you must be right. Because he's popular on the internet the funding will be there.
posted by OmieWise at 10:38 AM on July 23, 2012


the messianic legend really isn't supported by the recordings.

I'm guessing this is a time thing, because watching those Bill Hicks TV specials when they originally aired on Channel 4, Hicks really *was* the only person who was speaking honestly and openly about his experiences with drug use and doing so right from the heart of Ron and Nancy's War on Drugs.

Nowadays, the stuff Hicks says in kind of old hat -- largely because so many other people have picked it up and run with it, so it lacks that 'shock of the new' impact that it had at the time. And it wasn't just his commentary on the War on Drugs. His critique of the impact of the evangelical tendency in US politics is something you *still* don't hear much of on US TV, because speaking truth to power can only happen if you aren't scared of upsetting your advertisers.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:40 AM on July 23, 2012 [22 favorites]


Paul Dano or Michael Pitt, maybe, if they roughed them up enough.

Whoever it is is going to have to read for the role to show they can do anything approaching the vocal delivery.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:40 AM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


/checks twitter to see if Leary has stolen any of these jokes yet.
posted by Artw at 10:41 AM on July 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


Because he's popular on the internet the funding will be there.

Funny you should mention that, as the amount of money circulating on Kickstarter right now is pretty insane. Penny Arcade are somewhere around $350K. Amanda Palmer is well over $1M. Considering this is going to be a biopic about a dude, I doubt they'll have trouble scaring up exactly as much money as they need, by whatever means.
posted by griphus at 10:41 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Am I the only person who thinks Hicks was kind of a fool? Mostly because of his idiotic piece on drugs.

I don't mind his drug bits, and I think that Bill Hicks was a brilliant comedian most of the time... but then there's that fucking Goat Boy shtick. That one bit sours me on him more than he probably deserves.
posted by jason_steakums at 10:43 AM on July 23, 2012 [8 favorites]


but his legend far outstrips his body of work

To this, I very much agree. I am a huge fan of stand-up comedy, and I really think Hicks' legend is unwarranted--especially here at Metafilter. He falls somewhere between a raging polemicist and comic, with neither aspect being all that impressive (nor is the sum any better than the parts). If a grade was necessary, I'd give him a B. He's worth listening to, of course. But he is not worth significant lionizing.


On preview: Nowadays, the stuff Hicks says in kind of old hat -- largely because so many other people have picked it up and run with it, so it lacks that 'shock of the new' impact that it had at the time.

This may be true (although I would argue Hicks was not the creator of that shtick himself--he was "running with it" too). Nevertheless, I would be willing to concede that his present-day impact is less because of where comedy has come and it is unfair him to judge him by what is going on now. I wonder then how you introduce him to a broader audience in a biopic as something interesting?
posted by dios at 10:46 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


As Artw said, we revered Hicks in the UK. He played big London theatres. We were frankly appalled at how little known he seemed to be in his own country at the time.
posted by Decani at 10:47 AM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


but then there's that fucking Goat Boy shtick. That one bit sours me on him more than he probably deserves.

Just the other day someone was bemoaning the lack of pro-cunnilingus voices in popular culture.
posted by Artw at 10:52 AM on July 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


I don't mind his drug bits, and I think that Bill Hicks was a brilliant comedian most of the time... but then there's that fucking Goat Boy shtick.

I totally hear you on that. There was the bit where he lost his shit and just tore into that heckler, too. I feel like Bill Hicks' career arc is was a bit of a trainwreck, that he sort of deteriorated psychologically over time. (Wasn't he dealing with a lot of depression?) I absolutely agree with a lot of stuff the guy had to say, but I feel like over the span of his short career his delivery became increasingly abusive to the point where I just feel kind of icky watching some of his later stuff.

Of course, that doesn't mean it would have to be a bad movie. Plenty of great movies have been made in which the protagonist becomes increasingly unstable and unsympathetic over the course of the plot arc. Whether Russell Crowe is able to direct that movie, get good actors for it, do it well... well, that remains to be seen.

I'm listening, but I'm withholding judgement for now.
posted by Scientist at 10:52 AM on July 23, 2012


watching those Bill Hicks TV specials when they originally aired on Channel 4, Hicks really *was* the only person who was speaking honestly and openly about his experiences with drug use and doing so right from the heart of Ron and Nancy's War on Drugs.

I don't think I disagree about that. Hicks was important, and his polemicism and its subjects were significant and timely. From the point of view of a comedy fan, however, I don't think he explored the creative palette anywhere broadly enough to justify the degree of adoration he sometimes receives. The Goat Boy shtick mentioned by jason_steakums is a case in point. It had the potential to be a route for Hicks to satirise himself, his lusts and his hedonism, but was instead used as little more than a somewhat misogynistic indulgence of his and his audience's baser aspects.
posted by howfar at 10:52 AM on July 23, 2012


Funny you should mention that, as the amount of money circulating on Kickstarter right now is pretty insane. Penny Arcade are somewhere around $350K. Amanda Palmer is well over $1M. Considering this is going to be a biopic about a dude, I doubt they'll have trouble scaring up exactly as much money as they need, by whatever means.

There's already a bit of precedence for this exact sort of thing: The Canyons is a film currently in preproduction written by Bret Easton Ellis, directed by Paul Schrader, starring Lindsay Lohan and James Deen, funded entirely on Kickstarter.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:54 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Funny you should mention that, as the amount of money circulating on Kickstarter right now is pretty insane. Penny Arcade are somewhere around $350K. Amanda Palmer is well over $1M. Considering this is going to be a biopic about a dude, I doubt they'll have trouble scaring up exactly as much money as they need, by whatever means.

Hollywood movies cost significantly more than that.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:00 AM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


They're casting Denis Leary to play Hicks.

My favorite joke about this so far is "Leary already has all the lines memorized."
posted by mediated self at 11:01 AM on July 23, 2012 [13 favorites]


Am I the only person who thinks Hicks was kind of a fool? Mostly because of his idiotic piece on drugs.

He was also a bit of a conspiracy nut.
posted by Pendragon at 11:01 AM on July 23, 2012


...written by Bret Easton Ellis, directed by Paul Schrader, starring Lindsay Lohan and James Deen...

I have never wanted to simultaneously see and not see a movie this much in my entire life.
posted by griphus at 11:03 AM on July 23, 2012 [13 favorites]


Funny you should mention that, as the amount of money circulating on Kickstarter right now is pretty insane. Penny Arcade are somewhere around $350K. Amanda Palmer is well over $1M. Considering this is going to be a biopic about a dude, I doubt they'll have trouble scaring up exactly as much money as they need, by whatever means.

Yeah, see my comment about this re Crowe's stature. I have no doubt that two guys and a camera could make this via Kickstarter (The Canyons thing is interesting. 100k is a tiny, tiny, tiny budget for a film), but I was curious specifically about how this movie works in a Hollywood sense.
posted by OmieWise at 11:05 AM on July 23, 2012


I don't know if the fact that, by the rules of Kickstarter as she is spoke I understand them, you are legally required to deliver a product. So no matter how shitty the end product, there are legal consequences to that movie getting stuck in development hell.
posted by griphus at 11:06 AM on July 23, 2012


Who are they going to get to play Dennis Leary?

Daniel Tosh.
posted by gompa at 11:07 AM on July 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


I have no idea what the hell is going on in that first sentence, but I'm pretty sure I made my point.
posted by griphus at 11:07 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


God, I thought up until about mid-thread that Russell Brand was doing this, which made a certain amount of sense (although I was kind of disappointed because I don't think he's the kind of comedian/actor anymore who would do this justice). And I couldn't figure out all the Russell Crowe references.

As an American who's married to an English person who worships Bill Hicks, I had never heard of him prior to meeting my spouse. So I never saw/heard his comedy when it was timely. But when I did, it was astonishing how ahead of its time it seemed. Once I got beyond that, though, I only find him somewhat funny. But that "ahead of its time" thing? Pretty damn big deal, and great movie fodder I'd think...
posted by supercoollady at 11:08 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Mark Duplass would make a pretty good Bill Hicks, I think.
posted by littlerobothead at 11:10 AM on July 23, 2012 [6 favorites]


howfar, I'm calling contrarian shenanigans on your comment until you link me to a comic who had a more progressive act during the same time period as Bill Hicks. I have heard a lot of people downplay his work, but they are never able to tell me who was better.
. . . Bush has been selling weapons to Iraq since whenever, and we knew that, I knew that. During the Persian Gulf War those intelligence reports would come in: "Iraq: incredible weapons. Incredible. Weapons."

"How do y'all know that?"

"Well . . . we looked at the receipt. But as soon as that check clears, we're goin' in. What time's the bank open? Eight? We're goin' in at nine."
Admittedly, some of his work makes me cringe now, but as far as pushing the envelope, I can't think of anyone confronting the institutions of America as effectively as he did.
posted by deanklear at 11:14 AM on July 23, 2012 [10 favorites]


If you create a kickstarter whose ultimate goal is ostensibly to create product X, and you have set up rewards for backers that promise them product Y, then your obligation is that if your project is funded, you will either give your backers product Y or cancel the backers' pledges. You are not obligated to create product X.
posted by Jpfed at 11:16 AM on July 23, 2012


Having just watched suffered Jeff, Who Lives at Home this weekend, I hope Mark Duplass sticks to television and the fine League.
posted by dios at 11:17 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I feel like Bill Hicks' career arc is was a bit of a trainwreck, that he sort of deteriorated psychologically over time. (Wasn't he dealing with a lot of depression?)

His career arc was more of a parabola. He started out with some early successes, but after a couple of years, ended up an angry (and depressive) alcoholic. He had a tendency to break stuff/get into fights while on stage, which made him practically un-bookable for a while. Then he got sober, got his shit together and his career was pretty much ascendant from then on, until the cancer took him.
posted by xchmp at 11:19 AM on July 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


I thought Hicks was brilliant when I saw him on TV way back then. When I heard his drug bit on the Tool album, I thought it was a cool tribute to him, but the bit was already starting to get old - more an angry screed than comedy, owing possibly to the passage of time and changing context.

It's very interesting how stand up comedy that is biting and brilliant in its own time seems - without exceptions I can think of - to lose its effect as time passes and cultural expectations and our understanding of language and subtle implications change. I see this with Carlin and Pryor, and I can see it gradually changing the way I hear the old bits by other comedians. It seems that the more biting a comedian's material is, the shorter its life as "comedy" and the quicker its transition to being just angry current events commentary, since the subtle inflections that give comedic effect at the time get lost as our language and context changes.

With Hicks, I suspect that part of this is that the relevance of his angry commentary draws not only from the zeitgeist of the time when he was doing his bits, but also from the age of the audience to whom his material speaks. His comedy really spoke to me when I was just the right age. Now? He reminds me of myself on a really bad day, which is really not funny at all.
posted by The World Famous at 11:21 AM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


"I always wondered about Jessie's collection of little tiny shoes."

The man had some solid gems and definitely a lot of output worth celebrating.
posted by Dark Messiah at 11:24 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Can't imagine this movie will make big bucks. Whether you were a fan of his humor or not, his life just wasn't that exciting to turn into a movie. Besides there already was a movie about him.

Read his bio. There is nothing there that warrants a big movie. Nothing like someone like Pryor's life. He didn't face adversity more than anyone else. He didn't start early enough so there would be interesting historical stories to tell.

The fact that he was talented isn't always enough to make a movie. There are a lot of comedians with even more name recognition than he has whose lives would also make for a uninteresting movie. Not disrespecting him
posted by 2manyusernames at 11:28 AM on July 23, 2012


until you link me to a comic who had a more progressive act during the same time period as Bill Hicks. I have heard a lot of people downplay his work, but they are never able to tell me who was better.

I can't think of anyone confronting the institutions of America as effectively as he did.
posted by deanklear at 1:14 PM on July 23


Your asking for something with a subjective component and seem to have an outsized opinion of Hicks, so I know no matter who I tell you, you will dispute. But there were plenty of progressive comics who "confronted the institutions of America effectively": Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Paul Krassner, Woody Allen, Don Rickles, Sam Kinison, Dice, Cardell, Redd Foxx, Dick Gregory.... the list is long with progressive comics confronting social institutions and many were far more well-known (and thus "effective") than Hicks. Again, Hicks was good and deserves a place in the tradition, but he is not uniquely original, insightful, or funny.
posted by dios at 11:33 AM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's very interesting how stand up comedy that is biting and brilliant in its own time seems - without exceptions I can think of - to lose its effect as time passes and cultural expectations and our understanding of language and subtle implications change

Yeah, I watched a Lenny Bruce biopic recently, and I was also struck by how not-funny so much of his schtick seemed to be by today's standards.

And I'm not talking about the stuff that he started doing after his paranoia and his legal battles started happening. His stuff today seems misogynistic and homophobic, but mostly just not very funny.

The comedy that seems to better stand the test of time is stuff that completely lacks any political critique. Which I guess is why the slapstick movies of the 20's and 30's, and the stuff that depends on silly wordplay (a la 'Who's on First' and Marx Brothers stuff) will always draw larger audiences than any of the political stand-up material of those eras?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:35 AM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Am I crazy to think that Russell Crowe would actually be good in the part? He looks kind of like Hicks, and he's good at playing macho rebel-types riddled with flaws.
posted by fungible at 11:35 AM on July 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


howfar, I'm calling contrarian shenanigans on your comment until you link me to a comic who had a more progressive act during the same time period as Bill Hicks.

Bless you for thinking I care. To deal with your point, if I'm being honest, in terms of content, Hicks really wasn't that progressive. What did he say that Lenny Bruce, George Carlin or Richard Pryor hadn't before? In context of the time, you've likely only heard of him because British alternative comedy had already created an environment where someone like Hicks could thrive. If you think Hicks is progressive and confrontational, perhaps you might be interested in going to see Jerry Sadowitz some time.

as far as pushing the envelope, I can't think of anyone confronting the institutions of America as effectively as he did.

This is because you're thinking about comedy as a vehicle for political content, not as an art form in itself. Comedy is not just a place for people to say things you think are righteous and right-on. The fact that you agree with what Hicks said does not make him a great comedian. Comedy a discourse and an art, capable of achieving great effects of education and enlightenment. Hicks' polemic style scratched the barest surface of what comedy can do.

If you want to see a comic who combines righteousness with a subtle, dark complexity of tone and humour that Hicks never achieved, Daniel Kitson performs in the US fairly often.
posted by howfar at 11:38 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Am I crazy to think that Russell Crowe would actually be good in the part? He looks kind of like Hicks, and he's good at playing macho rebel-types riddled with flaws.

No, you're not crazy. You just didn't notice the second line of the post.
posted by The World Famous at 11:38 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


This thread, with everyone's different takes on Hicks, makes me think that a biopic done in the style of I'm Not There, with different comedians playing different aspects of Hicks/different points in his career in little allegorical vignettes, would be incredible.
posted by jason_steakums at 11:40 AM on July 23, 2012 [7 favorites]


Read his bio. There is nothing there that warrants a big movie.

Meh. The documentary was pretty compelling, and his life falls almost ridiculously close to the tortured genius biopic arc to the extent that I hope they're really going to have to be careful not to fall into cliche.
posted by Artw at 11:41 AM on July 23, 2012


Second Duplass for casting. Though the first person who popped into my head was John Cusack (dunno why).
posted by whatgorilla at 11:45 AM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


But there were plenty of progressive comics who "confronted the institutions of America effectively": Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Paul Krassner, Woody Allen, Don Rickles, Sam Kinison, Dice, Cardell, Redd Foxx, Dick Gregory....

Some of these I wouldn't typify as progressive. Woody Allen and Richard Prior, for example. And Dice was the very opposite of progressive.

But I think its interesting that it's precisely when Bruce's comedy does start to effectively confront those US institutions coincided with when his legal problems began -- legal problems that were effective at preventing him from working in the USA. I think it's precisely this reason why he enjoyed so much success in the UK as opposed to the USA. Because our media would give him access to an audience, whereas he was too 'edgy' for Letterman -- despite him toning down his act.

I don't want to overstate Hicks's impact either. Some of his stuff -- people have already pointed to the Goat Boy schtick, and his musical noodlings also falls into this category -- was just complete wank. But I do think that when he did nail it -- particularly in respect of his drug bits, the stuff on marketing and popular music, the advertising industry, politics and the evangelical strain in US politics -- he was as good as anyone out there working at that time.

And another thing: I'd never heard of Sam Kinison until I started reading on Metafilter about how Bill Hicks had ripped off his act. So I started checking out his stuff on YouTube and I'm just not seeing it. He doesn't seem at all funny to me, and if there's a progressive, political component to his work, I haven't been able to find it.

Perhaps someone could enlighten me about what it is that I'm missing here?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:48 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


This thread, with everyone's different takes on Hicks, makes me think that a biopic done in the style of I'm Not There, with different comedians playing different aspects of Hicks/different points in his career in little allegorical vignettes, would be incredible.

Hmm...an approach like this could also depict Hicks' various personas...i.e., the "dark poet" of Relentless, the gunslinger from Revelations, the resigned bearded Bill from his last performances, etc.
posted by mediated self at 11:51 AM on July 23, 2012


How weird is it that Bill Hicks is apparently more widely-known now than Sam Kinison? For a while in the late 80s, it seemed like you couldn't turn on a TV without seeing Sam Kinison screaming in your face.
posted by The World Famous at 11:52 AM on July 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


Someone should be making a biopic about Robert Schimmel. Now that is a story.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 11:57 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Some of these I wouldn't typify as progressive. Woody Allen and Richard Prior, for example. And Dice was the very opposite of progressive.

I'm sorry. If you are using progressive in its current political usage, then we are speaking a different language. I'm using it the term for its "left/right" connotation. I'm using in the standard usage sense that it was progressive from the norms of the day.

And another thing: I'd never heard of Sam Kinison until I started reading on Metafilter about how Bill Hicks had ripped off his act. So I started checking out his stuff on YouTube and I'm just not seeing it.


It boggles my mind that someone would be aware of Bill Hicks and not Sam Kinison. In my (unscientific) guess, one would know about Sam Kinison before Bill Hicks if one was moving outside the mainstream down the path towards subversive comedy, such that I could imagine hearing "I've heard of Kinison, but who is this Hicks guy?" Kinison was much more visible. And I don't know what clips you saw on youtube, but Kinison had a big pro-drug, anti-religion, anti-Reagan streak. I don't think either Hicks or Kinison stole from each other, but they are certainly from the same line of comedy which either originated.
posted by dios at 11:58 AM on July 23, 2012


(That should with: "which neither originated.")
posted by dios at 11:59 AM on July 23, 2012


God, I can't type today. My apologies.
posted by dios at 12:05 PM on July 23, 2012


I think it's not just me, dios. I'm pretty sure nobody (who isn't a comedy geek) outside of the US has heard of Kinison. While Hicks was doing huge one man shows -- the British equivalent of HBO specials -- Kinison wasn't even a guest on other people's TV shows over here.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:07 PM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


One problem I can see is that the guy is completely unknown outside the anglosphere, so unless they get a Very Big Star the movie is going to be straight-to-download4free.eu in most markets. And Jim Carrey couldn't save Man on the moon anyway.
posted by elgilito at 12:09 PM on July 23, 2012


I thought Hicks was terrific (though I too cringe at his conspiraloon material), and I'm with Artw on this one. This "young iconoclast speaks truth to power and then stares down his demons and then dies young" is going to make for one seriously overwrought, annoying, miserable travesty of a biopic.

I'd make a wish to get this fucker shut down immediately, but my biopic-gremlin is busy stalling the production of Mike Myers's biopic of Keith Moon.
posted by Fritz Langwedge at 12:10 PM on July 23, 2012


One of the main reasons I don't get my nose out of joint when someone doesn't "get" why Hicks was a big deal to a lot of people is precisely because I have the same opinion of Kinison.

I tried, I really did, but find Sam's material doesn't resonate with me; I tend to find myself wishing he'd just quit shouting.

It's almost like comedy is excruciatingly subjective. That said, I still enjoy the dry technical analysis of it on the blue -- just not necessarily for the reasons you'd think.
posted by Dark Messiah at 12:10 PM on July 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


This "young iconoclast speaks truth to power and then stares down his demons and then dies young" is going to make for one seriously overwrought, annoying, miserable travesty of a biopic.

Okay but now I'm thinking it would be a kick-ass movie if Crowe just goes full-blooded paranoid on it, like the Status Quo felt so threatened by Hicks that they sent black helicopters to give him cancer and bring him down.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:11 PM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Especially if it really is the Status Quo
posted by dng at 12:14 PM on July 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


I would be 1000 times more prone to see that movie and I'm already prone to see the one that we'll probably get.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:15 PM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd make a wish to get this fucker shut down immediately, but my biopic-gremlin is busy stalling the production of Mike Myers's biopic of Keith Moon.

Come on. That one will be worth it just so we can see Will Ferrell as Brian Jones.
posted by The World Famous at 12:16 PM on July 23, 2012


On the subject of Sam Kinison, now there's a comedian whose life would make for an interesting biopic. Not only was he raised in the evangelical tradition, son of a Pentecostal preacher, but he himself was actually a practicing Pentecostal preacher for several years in his twenties. He then went on to become one of the most notorious "bad boy" comics of the 1980s, embracing the "sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll lifestyle" in a big way, and making millions from it, only to die at the age of 39 after his car was hit by a drunk-driving teenager.
posted by Atom Eyes at 12:26 PM on July 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


Especially if it really is the Status Quo

Yes! Francis Rossi battling RSI to aim cancer causing missiles so that Hicks will have to have chemotherapy, allowing Rossi to secretly harvest his hair for implants.

Or something.
posted by howfar at 12:29 PM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you think Hicks is progressive and confrontational, perhaps you might be interested in going to see Jerry Sadowitz some time.

As an aside, while Hicks was appearing at the Montreal 'Just for Laughs' festival, Jerry Sadowitz was attacked after coming on stage with the greeting "Hello, moose fuckers."

Hicks could be confrontational in terms of his attitude towards the audience, sometimes, but that was as much to do with his genuine frustration with American audiences than it was for comedic effect. UK audiences loved him, and he loved them back. The Dominion Theatre in London is a huge barn of a place, and he filled it. Everything he'd always dreamed of.

But there was really no-one else, at the time, doing the same stuff. While Hicks was talking about drugs, the Gulf War, the LA riots, etc, his contemporaries were trying to get on sitcoms. Dark times.

Death was a good career move, though. I have a horrible fear that if he'd lived, he'd have turned into Alex Jones.
posted by daveje at 12:33 PM on July 23, 2012 [8 favorites]


Jerry Sadowitz was attacked after coming on stage with the greeting "Hello, moose fuckers."

Continuing with..."I tell you why I hate Canada, half of you speak French, and the other half let them"
posted by howfar at 12:35 PM on July 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


As far as casting goes I nominate Alex Jones
posted by gideonswann at 12:41 PM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


I have a horrible fear that if he'd lived, he'd have turned into Alex Jones.

You're not the only one.
posted by mediated self at 12:43 PM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


But there was really no-one else, at the time, doing the same stuff. While Hicks was talking about drugs, the Gulf War, the LA riots, etc, his contemporaries were trying to get on sitcoms.

You can keep saying that, but you are wrong. As mentioned above, there were other comedians doing the exact same subversive stuff.
posted by dios at 12:44 PM on July 23, 2012


Ah, god bless Jerry Sadowitz.
posted by Artw at 12:45 PM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


...written by Bret Easton Ellis, directed by Paul Schrader, starring Lindsay Lohan and James Deen...

I have never wanted to simultaneously see and not see a movie this much in my entire life.


Put Tao Lin in charge of the PR and have that ACORN pimp dude be his assistant.
posted by elizardbits at 12:47 PM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


James Deen

I'd never heard of Deen before, but fuck me if he doesn't look like a young Tommy Tiernan.
posted by howfar at 1:04 PM on July 23, 2012


Narcissistic Marc Maron, "I should be cast." Self-loathing Marc Maron, "What are you? A fucking asshole?"
posted by wensink at 1:10 PM on July 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


Nick Offerman's breakout hollywood role would be AMAZING. Ron Swanson needs to go dark, and Hicks is a great vehicle for that.

It will sell more on opening weekend than your usual #1 billboard album, because every Tool fan will go. Tool tool blah blah blah etc etc. Release an album, do it. Do it now.
posted by Roger_Mexico at 1:16 PM on July 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


If it is done, when it is done, 'twere well it were done in the style of Boogie Nights, I think, as a kind of celebration of the early 90's, and the re-emergence of comedy as a tool of anger rather than the limp satire of soi disant 'alternative comedy'. Maybe you get Bret Easton Ellis to write this, instead. He's right for the period. It'd be like getting Thackeray to write a biopic of Dickens. Except that Thackeray died first. Nevermind. My point is that however dated he seems now Hicks was an incredibly important voice in that post-rave, pre-grunge, post-Thatcher, pre-New Labour period. In the U.K. at least. Time and geography are always the enemies of satire and the friends of observational comedy, I suppose.

People lose interest, or fail to take an interest in the most vocal critics of US foreign policy in the Middle East two decades ago, despite the fact that the issues they raised bear immediate relation to the current state of affairs, WHAT'S UP WITH THAT?

RIGHT?
posted by tigrefacile at 1:26 PM on July 23, 2012


Ron Livingston, yes! Physically right, and I really believe he could pull off the anger.
posted by ericost at 1:30 PM on July 23, 2012


I can actually see Livingston as Hicks, the issue though is he's 12 years older than Hicks was when he died. Reportedly that's why Russell Crowe opted to direct the film instead of star in it; he had aged out of the role.
posted by mediated self at 1:46 PM on July 23, 2012


I'd never heard of Hicks (and unfortunately, was a big fan of Leary) when I moved to Austin in '96. Heard about Bill via Austin radio, lamented that I found out about the cool ones AFTER they died, and saved up to go out my next payday and buy every Bill Hicks CD I could get my hands on. $50 for music was a BIG AMOUNT for me back then, but eating ramen for two weeks was worth it.

Sixteen years later, I listen to the same material, and it just doesn't strike me the same way it did back then. Sure, I love it - but I've either aged, the material has aged, or both.

And the joke everyone has heard: "Why is Denis Leary famous, and not Bill Hicks? No Cure for Cancer."
posted by mrbill at 1:55 PM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Especially if it really is the Status Quo

They've got their own movie(s)
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:05 PM on July 23, 2012


Ah, god bless Jerry Sadowitz.

Now a Jerry Sadowitz bio-pic... when's the UK version of Kickstarter kicking off?
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:08 PM on July 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm waiting for the Bobcat Goldthwait biopic.
posted by item at 2:16 PM on July 23, 2012


Wasn't it that beasiality movie he made?

That's a guy with an interesting career!
posted by OmieWise at 2:38 PM on July 23, 2012


The World Famous: How weird is it that Bill Hicks is apparently more widely-known now than Sam Kinison? For a while in the late 80s, it seemed like you couldn't turn on a TV without seeing Sam Kinison screaming in your face.
Sam was a schtick comedian: SCREAMING INTO HIS MICROPHONE!!! IT'S SO DAMNED FUNNY!!!

He was actually much funnier than that, but unlike Steve Martin, he didn't figure out that the schtick had become bigger than him, so he didn't figure out how to leave it behind and redirect his audience or redefine his career.

Now, we don't remember the schtick, so we certainly don't remember the man who was funnier than just the single bit everyone knew him for.

Imagine if Andrew Dice Clay had died before he had a chance to show us what else he could do... there's still time for that to happen, actually.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:15 AM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


For my wedding, a friend's boyfriend gave me 8 Bill Hicks CDs (a few of his commercially released albums and a few bootlegs). Other than the Kitchenaid, it was the best gift.
posted by Twicketface at 8:20 AM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


The part about denis leary playing bill hicks was a joke right
posted by amitai at 6:31 AM on July 29, 2012


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