"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

Bill Hicks: When the Laughter Ends, Then What?

On January 30, 2009, David Letterman apologized to a national television audience for the one and only time he ever censored a guest comedian on The Late Show. Fifteen years earlier, on October 1, 1993, 32 year old stand-up comedian sensation Bill Hicks, found his routine edited completely out of that night's Late Show broadcast. The censorship, approved by Letterman himself, rankled Hicks enormously. The show would have been his twelfth and final appearance on Letterman. Hicks died just four months later, on February 26, 1994 of pancreatic cancer. Letterman's apology this past January, complete with an appearance from Hick's elderly mother, made for fascinating television.

Who is Bill Hicks?

While most people have never heard of him, many professional comedians idolize him. In 2005, 12 years after his death, Hicks' act was ranked in the top twenty comedic acts of all times by fellow comedians. Comedy Central ranked Hicks 19 out of the 100 top comedians in the history of the world. In a poll taken just two years ago, the people of Great Britain ranked Bill Hicks #6 on the list of the top 100 comedians of all time. His act was edgy, so vulgar, so "ahead of his time" that Rodney Dangerfield once quipped, "his parents haven't even met yet." Hicks glorified drug use, incorporated most of his experiences while high on cocaine, heroine, and LSD into his routine. He mocked all things sacred, southern and sure. One of his favorite acts, first introduced in 1984 during his first appearance on The Late Show revolved around a fictional character named Elmer Dinkley from Enid, Oklahoma - a character Hicks continued to develop until his last public performance.

What fascinated me in watching the Letterman broadcast was thinking about those things Bill Hicks and I have had in common.

Bill was . . .

(1). Born in Decmember of 1961.
(2). Raised Southern Baptist.
(3). Carried the first name "William."
(4). A teenager when he began speaking in churches.
(5). Fond of telling others about Enid, Oklahoma.
(6). The only person in his field censored by peers.
(7). A person who liked to make others laugh.

But there was, and continues to be, one huge difference between Bill and me. Bill Hicks once used the following routine in his act:

"I believe that the Bible is the literal word of God." And I say no, it's not, Dad. "Well, I believe that it is." Well, you know, some people believe they're Napoleon. That's fine. Beliefs are neat. Cherish them, but don't share them like they're the truth.

As Bill Hicks lay dying of pancreatic cancer, he tried to get his Southern Baptist dad to inhale mushrooms. Bill Hicks died pushing artificial highs on his father. The laughter ended on February 26, 1994.

Today my father and I laughed together over the phone. We're having fun, sharing joy together, talking about Christ and what He's doing in our lives and in the lives of others. We get excited about showing people the real and present joy of knowing Christ and being enjoyed by Him. I share Christ with others because I know Him to be the way, the truth and the life.

As I reflected on the life and death of Bill Hicks this evening, I couldn't help but ask myself the question:

"What makes me different from Bill Hicks, a man with whom I share much in common?"

There is only one answer.

God's grace.

There is nothing inherent in me that makes me different from Bill Hicks - I'm not inherently smarter, I'm not inherently better, I'm not inherently more enlightened. I, too, could have found my life wasted in a haze of drug induced imaginations and razor sharp confident humor - but God intervened and brought me to faith in His Son.

For that reason I can't get angry at people who love a Borat/Bruno/Hangover, x-rated atmosphere that frivolizes sin, scoriates the sacred, and embraces every poor and temporary substitute for lasting happiness that only Christ brings. I would love the same things were it not for God's grace. Christ does make me laugh, but it is the kind of laughter that springs from a heart full of gladness, not the empty laughter of irony, vulgarity or silliness - what Paul calls "behaving unbecomingly" (I Corinthians 13).

I pity the Bill Hicks of this world. I pity them because they are not able to stop the silly laughing long enough to ask what happens when the laughter ends.

If you are one who has read this blog because you are curious about Bill Hicks and googled his name for more information about his life and his comedy, my prayer is that God, by His grace, will awaken you to your great need of knowing, enjoying and glorifying God through surrendering your life to Jesus Christ.


In His Grace,


Wade

16 comments:

Rex Ray said...

Wade,
On the Baptist Standard blog today is:

“…THEY DELIBERATELY CHOSE TO BELIEVE LIES… (Romans 1:24-27) Anyone that can live in unremorseful sin without grieving the Holy Spirit does so because He does not dwell with them. Someday they will see truth from the light of their burning flesh.”

Yes, the laughing of people like Bill Hicks will change to anguish as they rejected what Jesus did for them.

I cannot imagine the pain of his father watching him go into eternity. His tears will only be wiped away in heaven.

God is Alive and Well said...

"God intervened"

Powerful words, Powerful Gracious God.

Thanks Brother, at 5:00 am, up since 3 and restless, I needed to be reminded.

Sometime I forget that God knows my heart and my phone number.

grace
wtreat

God is Alive and Well said...

Brother Rex: you said,

"Anyone that can live in unremorseful sin without grieving the Holy Spirit does so because He does not dwell with them. Someday they will see truth from the light of their burning flesh.”

If I know your email I would write you personally. Know we have been praying for you and your wife.

Your quote, along with Wades post, were honey to my bones this morning. Truly, God had me in mind when He led you and Wade to these postings at this time.

grace
wtreat

Steve said...

Wade,
a great post today, thanks. I haven’t been here in a while, and it’s good to hear some reflective thoughts about life and grace, and not so much about the SBC and her woes.

Blessings,

Steve

Paula said...

God does reach out-- to everyone (John 12:32, 1 Tim. 2:4). The difference is how each one responds. Some keep pushing God away and eventually He stops trying. Others accept Him, sooner or later.

Benji Ramsaur said...

Wade,

"I, too, could have found my life wasted in a haze of drug induced imaginations and razor sharp confident humor - but God intervened and brought me to faith in His Son.

For that reason I can't get angry..."

I, too, as well. It is the "call" that necessarily results in justification that makes the difference [Rom. 8:30] in time and not my ability. For Jesus says I have none [John 6:44, 65].

God Bless,

Benji

P.S. I think it's good for me to be reminded of the truth of your post. Thanks.

Bryan Riley said...

God's grace. Amen!

Yes, we have been graced to see the Truth. Those who are choosing separation from God are simply continuing to believe the lies of Satan.

If anything, they need our love, the love of God through us, all that much more. They need to have Truth and Love revealed to them.

When we separate we only give the enemy that much more room to work in their isolated lives.

david b mclaughlin said...

Wow. Powerful post. I have a few thoughts rattling through my empty head.

First, I'm not sure I am taking this right so forgive me if I'm not but if the thought that "they will see truth from the light of their burning flesh" is like honey to anyones bones I'm a little sickened. Personally, I'm grieved by the thought.

Which leads me back to the post.

Wade said, "...my prayer is that God, by His grace, will awaken you to your great need of knowing, enjoying and glorifying God through surrendering your life to Jesus Christ."

I wholeheartedly agree. But what bothers me about Calvinism is that if God doesnt awaken them, it's just too bad for them.

I've studied this deeply so I am fully aware of the justifications for such a premise. But that is so troubling to me. I now wont be able to sleep tonight.

dm

ps-i'm begging commenters not to turn this into a comment stream on the merits or lack thereof of calvinism. no need.

Christiane said...

Dear DAVID,

You wrote this:

"I wholeheartedly agree. But what bothers me about Calvinism is that if God doesnt awaken them, it's just too bad for them.

I've studied this deeply so I am fully aware of the justifications for such a premise. But that is so troubling to me. I now wont be able to sleep tonight."

David, I am not a Calvinist, but I understand your fears for those you believe may be lost.
If you are troubled, here is a prayer to help you sleep with a peaceful heart.
Remember: your prayers stand before the Lord for all eternity as He lovingly hears the cries of His Children. Love, L's

P.S. The prayer is the from Eastern Christian tradtion.


David, for the sake of those of us who need it, pray this 'in the Name of Christ' before you go to sleep, and then you will be given peace:


"Our Lord cries to us in the depths of our hearts,
"Awake 0 sleeper, rise up from among the dead, and Christ will illumine you".

"And you shall be as I fashioned you, a child of light capable of great compassion and love. And then I will awaken within you my Holy Spirit. You will know the profound love without limits I have for you.

And your flow of tears will witness to the melting of frozen places within you. The softening of your tear stained face will be an invitation for me to take up my abode in your heart. I will remove from you all harsh judgement"

From the ages to the ages: Amen.

Rex Ray said...

Wtreat,
Thanks for the nice words. I liked your blog of telling of your brother.

I wish James would have written more of His instead of so much about the law. People tend to write what they’re in love with.

David,
Enjoyed your comment and your saying: “I'm begging commenters not to turn this into a comment stream on the merits or lack thereof of Calvinism.” It made me smile as it reminded me of my brother.

With his ‘buck teeth’ he could shoot a stream of water and hit a fly at ten feet. He loved practicing on my face; then yelling: “Peace! Let’s have peace!”

If our sleep should be troubled, it should be over the lost like Bill Hicks and say: Who’s Calvin?

From your point of view, the thought of hell should grieve us all. The Baptist Standard quote was made to a homosexual that bragged about his lifestyle and implied Peter and Paul’s words were “Baptist junk” as they said:

“He turned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into heaps of ashes and blotted them off the face of the earth, making them an example for all the ungodly in the FUTURE to look back upon and FEAR.” (2 Peter 2:6)

“God let them go ahead into every sort of sex sin…vile and sinful things with each other’s bodies…THEY DELIBERATELY CHOSE TO BELIEVE LIES…their women indulged in sex sin with each other…and their men burned with lust for each other…” (Romans 1:24-27)

Thy Peace said...

If anyone is interested ...

Mainstream Baptist Blog [Dr. Bruce Prescott] > Live Streaming Video for the New Baptist Covenant Meeting.

Pastor Wade wrote ...
I am the Friday night keynote speaker at the New Baptist Covenant Conference in Norman, Oklahoma on Friday, August 7th, following Jimmy Carter's keynote address on Thursday night.

Christiane said...

Paula said "God does reach out. . "
I know this to be true.
What follows is a favorite poem about Our Lord's seeking the lost.


"Seek You the Hundredth?

Where are the cattle of a thousand hills?
Like sheep without a shepherd is this sheep.
Where is Your flock? And will You now me keep?

For though I knew Your Word and works and will,
still waters were not where I would be still,
and wild was fruit I sowed, which now I reap
and eat with bitter bleating while I weep
so far afield the fold that You would fill.

Seek You the hundredth? Ninety-nine abound,
yet You seek prints pressed by my little hoof
across the scattered sands of stony ground
and, lo, You find Your little lamb aloof
of joy in heaven. Have I now been found?
Yet laid upon Your shoulders is the proof."

~ by Michael Rew

I love this poem.
The theme of The Good Shepherd was a favorite drawing on the tombs of the early Christians. Christ was always pictured bearing a lamb safely home.

Love, L's

Andrew said...

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___________________
Andrew
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Music From The Plain said...
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Music From The Plain said...
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Steven Stark said...

I have enjoyed some of the humor of Bill Hicks over the years. It is not for everyone, but there is a lot of good stuff in there.

One bit I remember him telling (however based in truth) was how some guys came up to him after one of his shows and said, "We're Christians, and we don't like the stuff you said!"

Bill Hicks replied, "Well, forgive me!"

He had a lot of great insights, a lot of "not being able to tow the line in society" even as a comedian. I don't know much about him personally, but I have gleaned value from some of his bits, though of course, the profane, irreverent nature of much of it is not for everyone.

It seems that many people with a gift (curse?) for seeing the world a bit differently (and in SOME ways more accurately?), have a hard time making that work in their personal lives.