Friday, February 27, 2009

Bill Hicks

I stopped watching/listening to Hicks' performances a while ago, as it had become too familiar. And anyway, some of my worst writing was inspired by failed attempts to imitate his sardonic mien. But with all the 15th anniversary celebrations in the media, I had a chance to review. I had forgotten how funny he was.

Dara Ó Briain wisely counsels against making an icon of Hicks. True, Dara would be funnier if he had a fraction of the commitment that Hicks had. Still, he is right. It is only reasonable to add, then, that if Hicks' talent was extraordinary, so were his flaws. The vast majority of culture is racist, misogynistic, gay-bashing, classist and so on, and Hicks didn't always make an exception of himself. His humour was occasionally homophobic. His hatred for stupidity and bigotry led him to use the sort of condescending language about rednecks and trailer-parks that American liberals are so apt to fall back on. And he was sometimes horribly misogynistic, and altogether too fond of the penis. Worst of all was his sentimental streak. Sentimentality is invariably used to gloss over ones flaws. I once read an article by David Baddiel arguing that Sam Kinison's misogyny was actually not that bad because, as Kinison put it, a man doesn't break your heart the way a woman does. Baddiel actually admired this hateful drivel, but sentimentality is almost always an alibi for stupidity and bigotry, and this was certainly true in Hicks' case. The convention is that I should say something that redeems these flaws at this point. But I have already said that he was funny, and he was also politically left-wing for the most part - what more do you need?