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Big Fat Independent Movies

The Life and Times of Bill Hicks

Tuesday, March 16

Bill Hicks once told the famed and venerable Yale drama student Robert Klein that his routine was "living in the moment sorta." But as Steve Birmingham's Chronicle piece illustrated last week, Bill Hicks' moment is still going, and he's very much still living in it. Chief operating officer of the Just for Laughs Comedy Festival in Montreal, Bruce Hills calls Hicks a "major motion picture in a black T-shirt." So it just makes sense that SXSW would devote a heaving hour of discussion to the man's short, intense life and the insanely shrewd comedy that filled it. Hills and Hicks' other old friends, John Farneti and Kevin Phinney, shared stories between Bill video clips along with biographer Cynthia True. The highlight: a clip of Bill at 19, a fresh-faced Wally Cleaver at the Annex in Houston, performing a stand-up act more confident, perceptive, and experienced than the old pros. Comedy's best-kept secret was truly a fearless prodigy who started pushing the envelope of humor while his peers were telling fart jokes at frat parties. Phinney called him "the Neil Young of comedy." "If the world was zigging," said Phinney, "he would zag." Indeed, Hicks called bullshit on just about everything. And more and more people were starting to get it just before he died.

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