Damn we miss you, Bill
My friend bought the new Bill Hicks DVD and we were watching it at her house tonight. Bill did a bit where he accused all the world of having our priorities out of whack, as we allowed John Lennon to die, but not Milli Vanilli. Where Bobby Kennedy, John Kennedy, MLK were all murdered and Reagan was only wounded. Great joke and all too true considering how short his life was.
As of late, it's hard not to miss Bill Hicks, and many people in Austin are prone to missing him out loud. It's turned into quite the cliche to shake your head and say, "I can only imagine what Bill Hicks would make of this." He railed against the war machine, against the fundamentalist Christians, against the deliberately ignorant and he made it seem so much like common sense and funny to boot. I forgot some of his great bits, like how he imagines the Jesus of the fundies coming back with an Uzi, just mowing down people Rambo-style. Or how he almost pleads with people to understand that sex and drugs are not the enemy, but just a made up enemy to distract us from the enemy within of loneliness and despair.
He loathed George Bush and always portrayed him in his act as a soul-less monster who mouthed Christian platitudes while brainlessly ordering the deaths of thousands. One can only imagine what he would make of the Son of Bush.
Since Hicks has died, a whole crop of edgy young politically minded performers have filled the gulf--Janeane Garofalo, David Cross, Chris Rock, you know the score. All are very funny, but none of them is as willing to hang the idealistic heart out on a sleeve to show exactly where the anger and frustration comes from like Hicks was. He does a joke making fun of the anti-drug hysteria and the commercial with the egg in the frying pan. And he begins to rant about all the things he's seen on drugs that are not an egg turning into a brain, which is sort of a silly joke but it works in this case. And he starts to talk about hallucinating that he sees a spaceship and the aliens take him aboard and tell him that we are all one and death is just an illusion. And pause....and then he says, but no, never that an egg was a brain.
He could start off with a crude but funny joke about porn or oral sex and then turn it into a plea for people to embrace life for all its worth and especially the human connection you get in sex and end with an angry but hysterical slap at how marketers exploit sex to sell things. It's a revelation--how many people ever consider that using a sexy model to sell a stupid product is more exploitative than to have the same model sell her image more honestly as pornography? Porn is upfront about what it is--it's selling a fantasy, no more no less. Most ads sell you on a fantasy and simply give you a product you didn't really want to begin with. It will cause you to stop and consider--are we really just afraid of having our desires reflected back to us without the veneer of lies and excuses?
Now more than ever these questions need to be asked and sadly, we may not be up to the task like he was. But we have to strive. How the fuck is it, really, that we are in a such a sad sack state of the country that people are more up in arms about their kids seeing housewives having sex on "Desperate Housewives" rather than getting sent over to Iraq to die for reasons we still don't understand? What's wrong with people that they are more worried about women having sex without "consequences" than they are about children getting blown to bits for lies? I know these questions get asked all the time, but it becomes this mindless drill of the same questions over and over and over. But watching Hicks unleash the anger and humor over these very same questions on stage over ten years ago brings them fresh to mind.
And it brings up another, even more disturbing question. How is it that in all this time things have just gotten worse?