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July 16, 2011

Movie Review: American: The Bill Hicks Story (2009)

Few comedians leave their impression on the craft the way Bill Hicks did. He started out like many, sharing observations about his own life, but he ended up deconstructing everything from pop culture to politics with a sharp wit and a vicious tongue. His life was short, but his legacy continues to grow.

Buy American: The Bill Hicks Story [Blu-ray] or DVD

Like many people, I didn't discover Bill Hicks until years after his death. I've been fascinated with him since. I like learning about the lives of comedians. It helps me understand their material in different ways. Hicks started in his early teens as part of a duo. He was always funny, and he really didn't seem to have a fear about speaking his mind.

The documentary was very well made. Interviews with Hicks' family and friends lead us through his life. His fellow comedians also kick in a few good stories. The style of the film was interesting. There was a significant amount of performance footage, but it wasn't used as a crutch. Photos were used to animate different parts of Hicks' life. It gave me a great sense of who he was, and it almost felt like I got to watch him grow up. It was unique and interesting. The movie also kept the interviewees off camera until the end.

Hicks was never really big in the United States, but he found a huge audience in England. He had trouble filling comedy clubs in the US, but he filled theaters in the UK. He was a rising star when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at age thirty-two. He died soon after, but he thankfully left two unreleased albums behind. Rant in E Minor and Arizona Bay are two must-listen albums, and American is a must-watch documentary. If you're not already a Bill Hicks fan, you will be after watching this.

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