Bill Hicks - Love all the People: Letters, Lyrics, Routines

Brian Hopkins 04/05/2005

'There was a bad audience, half of them were asleep and the other half was insane. One guy hated my guts, I don't know why. We started arguing back and forth.'  So reports an eighteen-year-old William Melvin Hicks ('Thanks Dad') in a 1980 high school newspaper article, and the first entry in this compendium of Hicks' letters, lyrics and routines. It seems a highly strung individual took offence at Bill's supreme cynicism and political disillusionment. The chronological transcripts of standup shows, musings and interviews between 1985 and 1994 contained in this book illustrate how Hicks slowly built up his reputation as an outspoken and controversial comedian. 
The progression of transcripts reveals how Hicks honed favorite routines, introduced new jokes and dropped others. This insightful approach naturally includes a fair amount of repeated gags and routines. Although this repetition may get tiresome for some, especially those already familiar with the bulk of Hicks' work, the visible progression of Hicks from a mildly successful touring comedian to his cult status by the time of his premature death at 33 is presented in a more interesting fashion than that of a straight biography. Hicks' success as a comedian is clearly shown to be down to his constant revisal of both himself and his shows and his impossibly on-the-mark intelligence is obvious throughout Love all the People. Hicks' legendary status was down to his dedication to his work as much as to the inevitable cult appeal following his early death. 
There are a number of interesting interviews that generally back up ideas explored in his standup routines. Other insights come from personal pieces that concern Hicks' views on love, smoking, personal philosophy and his diagnosis with fatal pancreatic and liver cancer. There are also a number of scripts and proposals for TV shows that never saw the light of day. 
Hicks died in 1994 but everything he said, criticised or made a joke of is just as applicable today. An example from a routine about George Bush senior's foreign policy from 1992: 
'Oh Iraq, they have incredible weapons, incredible weapons.''How do you know that?''Well…we looked at the receipts…but as soon as that cheque clears, we're goin' in. What time's the bank open? Eight? We're going in at nine…for God 'n' country 'n' here's a flag. Whatever symbol y'all need. Let's go! Come on we're killing sand niggers, let's go!'  This hilarious and essential book is full of insights that are as true today as they were ten-plus years ago. Read this book and laugh at the corrupt world that Hicks turned into a big cynical joke.