For those of you who aren’t familiar with the work of the late comedian Bill Hicks, I urge you to search his stuff out; it’s arguably been elevated to an over-high level because he died prematurely, but he often makes very good political or philosophical points (which frequently still ring true today), and some very good jokes.
For those of you who know of his work and career and rate him very highly, as I do and I know Mr Peel does (and for the record we did so before his untimely demise; neither of us is overkeen on leaping onto wagons full of band), then you’ll know that in 1993, less than a year before his death, Mr Hicks performed on The David Letterman Show. His segment went down well with the audience, but was cut before broadcast because… well, it appears that Letterman and others at the network were concerned that some of the jokes about pro-life groups would offend, especially as just such a group was advertising in one of the show’s commercial breaks.
Hicks was very upset about this, as he’d considered Letterman a friend, and being bounced at short notice for a routine which had been approved in advance annoyed him a lot. I’m summarising here, of course – for a very thorough report, written at the time, see John Lahr’s New Yorker article here.
Anyway, in a pretty surprising and unexpected turn of events, last week Letterman not only aired the never-before-seen material, but also invited Mary Hicks, Bill’s mother, onto the show, and talked about it with her. And, perhaps most importantly, he apologised for the decision and the upset it might have caused. It’s easy to question his motives, but whether they’re pure or not, Letterman’s apology appeared to be accepted by Mrs Hicks, and of course comedy fans get to see this notoriously unseen material. So, assuming my techie skills are up to the job, in three chunks, here’s the show in question (I recommend watching parts 1 and 2 for context, but if you can’t wait, the ‘lost’ stand-up routine is in part 3):
As I say, it’s easy to question Letterman’s motives for doing this, but Mrs Hicks accepted his apology, and so it seems inappropriate for others to be angry on her behalf; it’s insulting to her judgment to do so, really. The ‘lost routine’ is nothing that I haven’t seen or heard elsewhere on one of his live films or CDs, but it’s interesting to see an item which caused such a fuss at the time, and in all honesty I never thought it would be aired, so it’s an unexpected treat.
Which, of course, I wanted to share with you lovely folks.