American: The Bill Hicks Story (Madman)

He is now known as the greatest comedian of his generation, although he worked in virtual obscurity during most of his professional career. That comedian was Bill Hicks, who died in 1994 at the age of 32.

This documentary tells Hicks’ incredible life story with on-camera interviews with his closest friends and family members and with plenty of clip of Bill in action, many of them previously unseen.

Hicks grew up in Houston, Texas in the 1970s and began doing stand-up with his best friend Dwight Slade, before they were out of high school. His talent was undeniable and before too long he was in Hollywood writing scripts and trying to get a film made.

Hicks went through an incredible amount of transformations…he didn’t drink or take drugs until he was in his mid-20s, then he did so at a voracious rate, almost killing himself. He then got clean and sober, but his humour got more and more edgy. Even though he had made a few appearances on network TV shows like David Letterman, he was mostly confined to playing to small comedy clubs in the US. It wasn’t until he took his politically-charged act out the US that he became a big star. But by then the end was near.

The filmmakers do a wonderful job of showing how Hicks grew as a performer and how his approach to stand-up evolved over the years. The stories from his friends are both hilarious and bittersweet.  This was comedian like no other (although he has been “borrowed” from by many).

The DVD is full of extras…over two and a half hours of them…audio journals, deleted scenes, featurettes and much more.

If you don’t know much about Bill Hicks, here’s the place to find out. It you’re already a fan, there’s plenty here that’s new and enlightening.

Marty Duda