by J.D. Reager
The Essential Collection
This month, Ryko rolled out a long awaited four-disc (2 CDs, 2 DVDs) retrospective on the now legendary late comedian, Bill Hicks. Since his untimely death in 1994, Hicks' status has slowly but steadily risen to the level of a cult icon, thanks in part to the success of “alternative” comedians such as David Cross, Patton Oswalt, and even Russell Brand, all of whom Hicks is often credited as being an artistic influence on and forerunner to.
Whether that's true or not, Hicks was definitely a dynamic, unconventional, but still polished (you'd never see Hicks carry notes onstage) performer. And his material still feels fresh and relevant, whether he's talking politics (Reagan, Bush, the first Iraq war) or pop culture (art vs. commerce, reality TV, manufactured pop stars).
The collection is noteworthy to Hicks' devotees primarily for the DVD content, which includes captivating, never before seen performances from Hicks' early stand-up career, rare interviews, and the uproariously low-budget Kung-Fu film fiasco Ninja Bachelor Party (Hicks' only "acting" role). But for the uninitiated, the 2-CD “best-of” audio collection is a great introduction to a highly influential comic mind. Overall, a very solid anthology.
For clips of classic Bill Hicks stand-up, go here.