|Bill Hicks - Sane Man - DVD|
I've sat in front of my television, watching Bill Hicks' "Sane Man" six times. I've watched all the extras several times over. I've been on the internet, reading about Bill Hicks, reading his life story, his optimism, his pessimism, his social criticism, his love and hate for humanity, his spirituality, his wildlife foundation, and his loyal fan base reaching from American rock bands to the British Parliament. And I'm now sitting at my computer, completely and utterly speechless. I've got nothing. I've written countless paragraphs, then deleted them. I've trashed nearly complete drafts because they seem to just miss the point. And if there's one thing you must be ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN not to miss about Bill Hicks, it's the point.
I'm trying, perhaps in vain, to somehow transfer Hicks' timeless observations about humanity and life into this review; not doing so being a serious injustice. But the thing is, sometimes there's a level of human genius that has no appropriate lexicon with which to form a proper description. I just can't do it, and he knows it. In fact, he's looking directly at me right now, from the DVD menu on the other side of my living room, waiting for me to write some bullshit boilerplate DVD review -- smirking.
"Sane Man" marks Bill Hicks' first video performance, recorded in 1989, and pre-dating his seminal audio recording, "Dangerous." For those unfamiliar with Hicks' later work, "Sane Man" is perhaps an appropriate primer. The material is tame by comparison, which means very little when confronted with images of prepubescent Debbie Gibson and Tiffany sixty-nining, or Dick Clark as a Satanic wolverine, sodomizing actor and fellow television host John Davidson. Details aside, its Hicks' POINT that rings true, more than a decade and a half later: Do not accept mediocrity, don't become a "happy consumer," don't live in a mall.
Bill Hicks' satire and social criticism extend to a broad range of topics. Central themes include chemical use, music, politics, consumerism, capitalism, sex, and even life itself. Using anecdotal stories of his past experience, Hicks will make a point of staggering clarity on any of his central themes, making you simultaneously laugh hysterically, and think critically. He has an innate way of identifying characteristics about ourselves, things far less mundane then, say, Seinfeld-esque observational humor. Instead, he riffs on more serious, heavy-hitting ideas, aimed more toward the horizon of human existence than at airplane peanuts, wine lists and dogs.
"Wouldn't it be great to hear a POSITIVE drug story on the news? 'Today, a young man on acid realized that all matter is merely energy condensed to a slower vibration, that we are all one consciousness going through itself subjectively. There is no such thing as death, life is only a dream and we're the imagination of ourselves ... here's Tom with the weather."
Bill Hicks oscillates between affection and distaste for "society/humanity." This duality gives the humor a brilliant characteristic; at times very touching and beautiful, and others dark, deadly, and brash. He tends to use extremes to make his point, testing the audience's limits of taste and tolerance. During breaks in his rant, I could see members of the audience with a look of confusion on their faces, not sure whether to laugh. That seemed to make the jokes funnier. But in defense of the audience, some of the jokes were so poignant that I was too floored to laugh. Throughout the performance, I couldn't help but wonder what was roiling around in his head, what chaos must've been unfolding in there, the great heaps of intelligence screaming to get out. Thankfully, a lot of it managed to escaped out of his mouth.
Hicks was a teacher, a mentor of human life, or at least I think he might have felt that way, perhaps doing his routine as a public service to deliver us from rampant stupidity. But in 1994, he died of pancreatic cancer, just when we needed him the most. I can only imagine what he might have to say about the state of the world in the late 90s into 2000, about the terrorism, the wars, and the figurehead political figures who can't seem to sort it all out.
Well, I barreled through this review. I still feel like this article doesn't do the man justice. But read whatever review you want, the simple fact remains: YOU WILL BENEFIT IN SOME WAY BY VIEWING THIS, OR ANY OTHER, BILL HICKS PERFORMANCE. There. I said it. Now, I mean it. Go. Rent it. Buy it. Whatever. If you're too cheap to get your own copy, then at least go to this site. I resisted the temptation to simply cut-and-paste the whole goddamn page into this review.
- Jesse Pelkey | 2006-03-02