Book Review: American Scream by Cynthia True

American Scream is one of many unauthorised biographies of the late great comedian Bill Hicks. Obviously all biographies will be unauthorised as he died way too young at the age of just 32 from pancreatic cancer.

Bill Hicks was almost unheard of in America, but over here in the UK he was huge. He appeared at the Playhouse in Oxford when I lived there, but I was too slow to get a ticket. Fortunately the live show became available as a CD where you could hear him riffing with the audience. When someone told him that they were a student Bill asked if he went to Cowley High. An in joke.

Bill could be crude and vulgar, but he was also savage in his hatred for Republicans, pro-lifers, George Bush Snr, the first Iraq war and fundamental Christians. Famously he once said that humans were a virus with shoes. He could also do very funny observational comedy. Finding himself in a waffle house in the deep south of America the waitress came over and asked him ‘what are you reading for?’ Not, what are you reading, but, what are you reading for? There are some deep pockets of humanity.

Bill began his comedy as a 15 year old, escaping out of his bedroom window and performing at open mic nights in Houston. In his 20’s he went from being tea-total, non-smoker, non-drug taker to the complete opposite almost overnight. His comedy became more confrontational and he ended up burning a lot of bridges. His agent tried to hook him up with recovering alcoholic comedians, which worked as he went cold turkey and his comedy benefited. He would still indulge in the odd magic mushroom, which he found incredibly funny that it grew on cow shit.

To end, Bill Hicks was one of the greatest comedians of all time and I would encourage everyone to check out some of his stuff and if you’re easily offended find his Letterman stuff.