American ? The Bill Hicks Story Blu-ray
Directed by Matt Harlock and Paul Thomas
2 Bly-ray discs
BBC America 2011
102 minutes + 5 hours of extras

American – The Bill Hicks Story is a superb biographical documentary Blu-ray about the late and somewhat controversial stand-up comic (1961 – 1994). It is most certainly going to please his many fans. Even if you are not a big stand-up comedy fan, American is really interesting as it is more about the growth and life of an artist than about comedy. Directors Matt Harlock and Paul Thomas have put together a very artistic documentary featuring animated photos and other visual effects that enhance and never detract from what is being told. Disc 1 includes a couple of extended interviews and featurettes. The second Blu-ray disc for American – The Bill Hicks story features 351 minutes of extra features. You have to be insane to expect these features to be high definition and a lot of this stuff is feschrift.

An old saw about artists is if you want to be really famous and recognized die young. It worked for Bill Hicks who for a while was the Tupac of stand-up comedy with more post-mortem releases than when he was alive.

Bill Hicks was a very young bloomer, hitting open mics with pal Dwight Slade when he was sixteen and becoming a regular at The Comedy Story at 21. He left L.A. soon after feeling he was stagnating. It took a while for Hicks to get the kind of recognition he felt, rightly, he deserved but he did get some before his death.

The documentary consists of family movies and photos and performance footage with voice-overs by those closest to Hicks such as his mother, brother, and sister, and friends and comics and friends.

One very visually interesting segment of American – The Bill Hicks Story is about Hicks interest in magic mushrooms as a way of expanding his understanding. It is tempting to say a lot of the comic’s material was his idea of magic mushrooms for his audience.

A consistent theme in this documentary is how Bill Hicks was always a few steps of his audience, especially his American audience. The longest clip in this documentary is from the comic’s Just For Laughs Montreal Relentless show at the Centaur Theatre. This is where the last and most evolved stage of his career began.

It is no coincidence American – The Bill Hicks Story ends with a clip of the comic performing a routine on messiahs.

This is an excellent documentary Blu-ray that will interest anyone, Bill Hicks fan or not.

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