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.
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,