Bill Hicks Live: Satirist, Social Critic, Stand-Up Comedian

DVD Watch

'Bill Hicks Live'

Rykodisc, $19.95 Bills Hicks for president. The Oct. 26 release of Bill Hicks Live: Satirist, Social Critic, Stand-Up Comedian couldn't come at a more useful time – even if it is 10 years after his death: On the first official Hicks DVD, which contains three full-length, live performances and a documentary about his life, the comedian talks about God creating Republicans and then weeping afterward. But he also regularly calls foul on a side other than the one you expect him to take. He decries nonsmokers for secondhand coughing and then turns right around, cigarette dangling from his gritting teeth, and mocks smokers as desperate self-destroyers; to Hicks, there were "a lot of ways to look at the world." On Bill Hicks Live, he takes the microphone right into his mouth, makes it growl and scratch your ears, and then shits on it – all in a way that is strangely life-affirming. The DVD performances – HBO's One Night Stand in Chicago; London's Revelations; and Relentless, his 1991 performance at the Montreal Comedy Festival – dismantle consensus by weaving coincidence between black and white and exposing the irony in everything. Between impressions of Satan and the Doublemint twins, he takes on subjects as pressing today as they were before he died. "I don't care if you shoot Mona Lisas out of your ass on cue," says Hicks as he calls out artists who sell themselves to make a buck. Everyone's a hypocrite. Christianity, pornography, drugs, the military, war, and America in Iraq: Hicks connects everything, makes everyone complicit, and renders all our battles a little pointless. "I delight in telling my brothers things they don't know," says Hicks, "particularly when they're true." For example, he calls America's first Iraq stint a war waged "to feel better about ourselves" – a lesson on foreign diplomacy that still resonates. By the last performance on the disc, Hicks reaches a level of insightful intensity that some sensational and shoddy editing – random images of flames and American flags – shouldn't diminish. "I had a vision of a way we could have no enemies ever again," a serious Hicks presciently concludes his routine. "You know all that money we spend on nuclear weapons and defense every year? Instead, if we spent that money feeding and clothing the world ... we could, as one race, explore outer space together in peace forever." Earlier in the act, he says he prefers his rock stars dead – that he wants them to play from their "fucking hearts." A gunshot concludes Hicks' act, and he falls to the ground in a black heap. Rock on, Bill.

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