Love All the People: The Essential Bill Hicks by Bill Hicks and John Lahr

This post originally appeared on I Read Everything

Book: Love All the People: The Essential Bill Hicks

Author: Bill Hicks and John Lahr

Type of Book: Humor, social criticism, non-fiction

Why Did I Read This Book: Because I love Bill Hicks

Availability: Soft Skull Press released the trade paperback in 2008. You can get a copy here:

Comments: Phew! I adore Bill Hicks. I think he was one of the most transgressive and interesting American comics ever. As a fellow Texan, conspiracy theorist, and Southern Baptist refugee, I felt a definite kinship with him and was crushed when he died in 1994. When YouTube came along, I pored over Bill’s appearance outside the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, checking his face and body language to see if there was any sign of what was to come, the cancer that would end his life less than a year later. Aside from looking shaggy and unkempt, which is relative given that I am talking about the man who brought us Goat Boy, there is no sign that he was not wholly fine. I have a difficult time liking Dennis Leary, though I want to like him, knowing how much of Hick’s routines he “borrowed” during his ascent. Bill Hicks was smart, funny, acerbic, angry, brave and, along with Johnny Cash, is a man I really wish I had met before he died.

So it was disappointing as hell not to love this book. In fact, it was disgusting to realize that during large sections, I was bored. The problem is not Bill. The problem is the editing. The idea behind the book was to show Bill’s comedy routines as he performed them throughout his career so that the reader can see how Bill’s routines evolved over time. The problem with this approach is two-fold:

First, Bill Hicks had the same message throughout his career. Bill Hicks’ message stayed on point more or less from the beginning. Therefore it is difficult to appreciate any sense of evolution when the spirit behind the jokes is the same and when, in fact, entire chunks of his routines are vomited verbatim up to five times in one book.

Second, the repetition on paper is mindlessly boring. Boring. Bill Hicks is not boring but this book is. Say one had the chance to follow Bill when he was alive and hear all of his routines. Being there in person, night after night, hearing his delivery, seeing the expressions on his face, it is safe to say it likely would not have been as tiresome as reading the same jokes over and over. The end result is that Hicks’ fierce messages of skepticism combined with openness, cynicism and optimism, spirituality and anti-religion, togetherness and independence, and peacefulness and a call to intellectual arms get hopelessly diluted through meaningless repetition.

This book just didn’t work.

So instead of recommend this book, I instead recommend you buy one of Bill’s CDs. Instead of complain about the book further, I’ll instead quote Bill and while these quotes are indeed from the book, they will sound so much better coming from Bill himself.

Bill on drugs:

Shit man, not only do I think marijuana should be legalized… I think it should be mandatory.

If you believe drugs don’t do anything good for us, do me this favour, will you? Go home tonight, take all your albums and tapes, K? And burn ’em. Cos you know what? The musicians who made all that great music… reeeeeeal fucking high on drugs.

Shut the fuck up. Your denial is beneath you, and thanks to the use of hallucinogenic drugs… I see through you.

Well, once again, I recommend a healthy dose of ah… psilocybin mushrooms. Three weeks ago, two of my friends and I went to a ranch in Fredericksburg, Texas, and took what Terence McKenna calls a “heroic dose.” Five dried grams. Let me tell you, our third eye was squeegeed quite cleanly. And I’m glad they’re against the law. Cos you know what happened when I took them? I laid in a field of green grass for four hours, going, “My God, I love everything.”

Bill on work and corporations:

You know what I hate about working? Bosses, that’s what I fucking hate. First of all, let me tell you something quick. The very idea that anyone could be my boss, well… I think you see the conflict. Not in this lifetime, Charlie. A few more incarnations, we’ll sit down and chat. But I used to get harassed. “Hicks, how come you’re not workin’?” I’d go, “There’s nothing to do.”

“Well, you pretend like you’re workin’.”

“Well, why don’t you pretend I’m working. Yeah, you get paid more than me, you fantasize. Pretend I’m mopping. Knock yourself out.”

Everyone should wear blue jeans and three t-shirts and eat beans and rice and break every f-ing company, break ’em.

Open a McDonald’s in Moscow and everyone’s backslapping each other. It’s depressing to me. “Oh, it’ll help the economy. McDonald’s, it’ll supply forty-five new jobs there in Moscow.” Yeah, twenty dentists and twenty heart specialists. It’s shit. Don’t eat it.

Bill on kids:

(discussing banning drugs, alcohol and pornography) “But we have to protect the children, we have to protect the children.” Let me tell you something: children are smarter than any of us. You know how I know that? I don’t know one child with a full-time job and children. Yeah. They’re quick these kids, man. They’re fucking quick.

She wanted kids. I had no idea her philosophy was so flawed. She goes, “Wouldn’t it be nice to have a kid, to have this fresh, clean slate, innocent, and to fill it with good ideas.” Yeah, yeah, how about this? If you’re so fucking altruistic, why don’t you leave the little clean spirit wherever it is right now?

Bill on religion:

We are the perfect and holy children of God, and I don’t see, being the perfect and holy children of God, how any limits could possibly be put on us… not at all. That’s the point of my act. I just want to be free of the fears and anxieties of death and the superstition of religion. Being raised as a Baptist… with an avenging God, a God who created hell for his children. I’m sorry but… no. Wrong. You’re wrong. That’s an insane God and therefore not mine. Because, see, God would be very sane, don’t you get it? That’s my act. Everything branches off from that.

I was raised Southern Baptist in Texas! You don’t think I got the message? P-shaw, my Brothers and Sisters! I got the ONE TRUE message. And I know, because this is how I was raised, that even you poor, misguided Christians from other denominations are wrong. So load your guns and prepare to do Holy Battle in the name of Jesus, the lamb of peace.

This is the message of Christianity:

Eternal suffering awaits anyone who questions God’s infinite love.

Or, to paraphrase:

I will make your life a living hell if you don’t think like me.

Bill on conspiracy:

And if the ATF and the FBI had any honor, if there was any honor left or dignity on this planet, they could commit hara-kiri while first admitting what they’ve done. They’d kill themselves, cos they are liars and murderers. “Oh, we had to bust the compound down, cos we heard child molestation was going on.” Yeah, if that’s true, how come we don’t see Bradley tanks knocking down Catholic churches?

(Regarding the Texas Book Depository JFK museum in Dallas) Anyway, they have the window set up to look exactly like it did on that day. And it’s really accurate, you know, cos Oswald’s not in it.

Bill just being Bill

My dad: “Bill, do you have to say the f-word in your act, son? Bob Hope doesn’t need to say the f-word in his act.” “Yeah, well, dad, guess what. Bob Hope doesn’t play the shit-holes I play, all right? You put him in some of these joints, he’ll have Emmanuel Lewis and Phyllis Diller sixty-nining as his closer… just to get out of there alive.”

She was a southern girl, which is the same as saying she was insane. All southern women are insane. Some are cold blooded killers and some are harmless eccentrics, but the best of the breed exhibit both of these characteristics and always the one you expect the least at the time you least expect it.

The real message of Bill Hicks:

It’s only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings and money. A choice right now, between love and fear. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your doors, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love, instead, see all of us as one. Here’s what we can do to change the world, right now, to a better ride. Take all that money that we spend on weapons and defense each year, and instead spend it feeding, clothing and educating the poor of the world, which is would many times over, not one human being excluded…