Reviewed by Audra Schroeder, Fri., Dec. 24, 2010
Bill HicksThe Essential Collection (Ryko)
Within the cult of Hicks, it's hard to say what's "essential" from the Texas comic. Consider this collection an after-dinner mint to this year's excellent documentary American: The Bill Hicks Story. Two CDs feature material from well-known albums that aren't hard to find, but the selections are top-notch. Hearing Hicks take down Jay Leno ("Artistic Roll Call") is still a thrill today. Two DVDs hold more allure, featuring the Austin Bootleg Series, four shows between 1991-1993, the last of which, from October '93, took place just months before his death. There are clips from Houston in the early 1980s, when Hicks was starting out as a teen – before he sharpened his satire into a steel trap – plus the goofy short "Ninja Bachelor Party," a longtime Austin cable access gem. Of special note is a download card with Lo-Fi Troubadour, Hicks' acoustic album, a mellow flip side to his acerbic onstage wit. He gets lumped into the "outlaw" comic pile – the origins of which are explained on one DVD – but prophet was more appropriate. He would've had whips for every animal in this post-9/11 circus.