"This DVD contains everything your parents hate, everything the church preaches against, everything the government fears. Enjoy." Bill Hicks.
Bill Hicks is either a legendary stand-up comic or has become one postumously. True, many artists find their reputation gets a major boost once they have achieved death. How else can you explain the amazing, almost stock market like run on the work of some painter once he or she has kicked the paint bucket?
The same is true for Bill Hicks who is more famous now that he is dead and releasing much more material than he ever did live. It's as if Hicks was the dead rapper version of stand-up comedy.
Part of the problem around the Bill Hicks legend is the CDs themselves. Basically, you either like the artsy-fartsy approach this stand-up comic had to his comedy CD releases that included useless musical segues and an insistence on not working on the recording in the studio to equalize the sound and all.
The theory was you should hear his set as he performed it live without any sound adjustments (the reality was Hicks never really bothered bring the mike close to his mouth unless he felt like screaming in it). This was definitely a theory as you cannot then explain how the hell the music got in there.
So, as far as CDs go, aside from Philosophy: The Best of Bill Hicks pretty much everything else is a pass because of all the annoying artsy crap around them.
This is why the Bill Hicks Live DVD is what will rehabilitate this comedian in the eyes and ears of those who, like me, didn't have the patience or the fortitude to listen to his CDs.
On DVD you get what the guy wanted you to get in the first place: his set as performed live. Luckily, the recording (even for the legendary Relentless performance at the Montreal Just For Laughs Comedy Festival in 1991 at the Centaur Theatre -minor flaw and all--) managed to the sound quality just right. The only exception to that rule is the Revelations show.
There are three live performances on this DVD from Ryko all taped in 1991. One Night Stand from the Old Vic Theater in Chicago was filmed around the time of his UFO tour. Relentless (of the CD of the same title fame) was, as mentioned before, filmed in Montreal, while Revelations was taped at the Dominion Theater.
Revelations is the weakest of the three very solid shows basically because of sound issues and the fact the Goat Boy bit definitely goes on much too long. There are, however, neat visual effects in that taped performance involving devilish inserts of Hicks' face. This is probably the darkest (comparatively speaking, of course) of the shows by this cynical humanist.
One Night Stand is a shorter version of the Relentless show, reprising much of the same material. It is still original and different enough to watch, especially for its killer ending, immediately after Hicks makes the point we always kill the guys who try to help us.
Relentless is the legendary show on this 3-show DVD package. The producers were honest and mention in the opening one short segment is not of the highest visual quality. This is true but that segment is still very watchable. What is great is they have let you choose between the full or edited version of the show. A nice touch that shows Ryko cares about Hicks' fans.
Also on this DVD is It's Just A Ride: The Bill Hicks Documentary, sort of a cross between Biography and VH1 profiles. This too is interesting especially because people like Jay Leno, Richard Jeni, Richard Belzer, and so on try to explain the unexplainable.
Interestingly, the liner notes in this DVD is word-for-word the liner notes for the CD Philosophy, also on Ryko. I guess if you got a really good text, might as well go for it. I guess if you got a really good text, might as well go for it.
One Night Stand, Old Vic Theatre, Chicago 1991. 41 minutes
Relentless, Montreal International Comedy Festival 1991 1 hour
Revelations, Dominion Theatre, London, England 1991 or 1992 (depending which liner notes you read) 75 minutes
It's Just A Ride, The Bill Hicks Documentary. 40 minutes.
Other Bill Hicks Reviews
Salvation: Bill Hicks is the 2Pac of the comedy world.
Sane Man: Bill Hicks Sane Man is a must.
American - The Bill Hicks Story Blu-ray: Excellent documentary about original American stand-up comic with 5+ hours of special features
Bill Hicks reissued on Comedy Dynamics: Info about re-releases and a couple of new things.
Bill Hicks Audio Reviews