I'm haunted by Bill Hicks

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How can you be a fan of Bill Hicks and still do the job we do? I guess it depends on how you look at things (he definitely would not approve of that comment). There isn’t a day goes by that he doesn’t sit on my shoulder like a little goat-boy reminding me not to become one of satan’s little helpers.

American-The-Bill-Hicks-Story This year, art house cinemas across the UK had very limited screenings of ‘American – The Bill Hicks story’. My local, The Hyde Park Picture House had it for only one Thursday night about a month ago and I’m ashamed to say, I missed it. The good news is that it’s now out on DVD although it’s admittedly a bit pricey at £16.99. Worth every penny though – it’s not the usual biopic.

I watched the Serge Gainsbourg biopic recently and, in its attempt to be unconventional, turned out to be pretty boring. ‘American’ is a different story – literally. Both films are about mavericks and for some – national heroes, but ‘American’ manages to capture the spirit of the man almost entirely, leaving you to want to go out and discover, or rediscover his work immediately. The Gainsbourg movie actually feels like it’s a bit more than the sum of his work and, having subsequently done my homework, his work doesn’t seem to live up to the legend.

‘American’ has an interesting style, using stills animation which we’ve all seen but never to this degree. It’s odd but it really works. However, the stand-ups are really what Bill Hicks was about and they are absolutely unbeatable. So many times since his untimely death I’ve longed to know what he’d have to say – 9/11, Bush, Bill Gates, Facebook?

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Like many great Americans he was accepted in the UK long before he was recognised in the States, and in many places he still isn’t. For me though, he helps to keep me on track and occasionally, gets me into a heap of trouble when his spirit whispers in my ear ‘maybe this is the moment you should be telling people what you really think’.

So, because it’s halloween – long live the ghost of Bill Hicks. May he continue to scare us into doing the right thing.

You can watch what he had to say about marketing and advertising here. Ignore it at your peril.

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