November 22, 2002

Bill Hicks "Flying Saucer Tour Volume One: The Funny Bone, Pittsburg, 6/20/91"

Now this is a great idea for a record! When the late, great Austin, Texas comedian Bill Hicks died in 1994, he left behind an exhaustive tour schedule, a legendary reputation, and very little in the way of recorded evidence. Ryko, in their typically infinite wisdom, rescued Hicks from the tomb of obscurity. Having released four excellent, must-own records and a best-of, Hicks' estate has decided to dig through the hundreds of Hicks performances and release them in their entirety. This is the first in the series, and it's a doozy of a show. The liner notes proclaimed it to be a beautiful performance in the face of apathy, and they couldn't be more accurate in their description.

For fans of Hicks, the set is a familiar one. If you've purchased at least two of Hicks' albums, then you'll have heard about a half of the material in this performance. No matter, though; while it's true that his routines were classics, these routines are slightly different enough to prove interesting to the die-hard fans. I've heard most of the set before, and I'm still rolling on the floor from the things he's saying.

His audience, though--they're rather quiet. Really quiet. And, of course, Hicks noticed it. You can hear him sigh out of frustration during the second bit of his routine, "Summer," because it's rather obvious that he's not going down at all. At times, the silence is deafening, because it sounds like there are only three or four people in the audience. It actually sounds like a real-life Neil Hamburger routine.

And then--it gets personal.

He turns on his audience, proclaiming them "the worst fuckin' audience I have ever faced...ever...ever..ever!" It is this revelation that really breaks the ice, and for the next few minutes, the wall between audience and performer is broken down, and though it seems as if he's not able to get past their apathy, what he's really doing is breaking down the audience even more and is, in fact, winning them over. During these next few minutes, there's some rather hilarious audience interaction. He then turns on all of his charm, and the show just becomes electric from that point on, and Hicks emerges victorious once again.

While much of the material is familiar to those familiar with Hicks, it's an excellent starting place for those who are looking for a place to learn more about what made Hicks so beautiful. He was an obscene, in-your-face, one-of-a-kind....philosopher. He wasn't a comedian, he was a man who knew that the only way the world can learn to accept things such as drug use, sexual differences, and questioning of the government is by point-blank saying things that everybody is afraid to talk about. He wasn't rude, loud, or abrasive--he was honest, and if he seemed like those things, then that's your problem, not Hicks'. Nobody has yet been able to top Hicks, and I fear that nobody ever will.

It's sad that he's gone. The world 2002 sure could use a Bill Hicks 1991.

--Joseph Kyle

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