Bill Hicks: Censored!

bill-hicksIn October of 1993, Bill Hicks made his last appearance on Late Night with David Letterman…sort of. In October of 2010, Hicks is funnier than ever.

Hicks was a favorite comedian on Letterman’s old Late Night show and the television venue was Hicks’ most consistent national audience. After a routine taping, Hicks left New York expecting to see himself on television that night. He didn’t. Letterman decided to censor Hicks, pulling the performance. The decision was made all the more tragic by Hicks’ untimely death in February, 1994.

In 2009, Letterman showed a lot of class by inviting Hicks’ mother to his new show, taking responsibility for the censorship and apologizing to her and his audience for his decision. He then aired Hicks’ censored performance for the first time.

Hicks has said that the performance had been pulled because he made fun of Pro-Life groups who supported the show. Letterman doesn’t get specific, but what is amazing about the content is that – despite the dated references – the power of the man’s imagery and delivery remains undiminished more than a decade later.

Here is the entire Letterman apology episode brought to you by our YouTube Channel.

Visit Joe Nolan’s Insomnia to watch one of Hicks’ last television appearances on Austin Public Access television.

, , , ,

  • http://joenolan.com/blog Joe Nolan

    Was happy to be reminded of this censorship debacle by watching the interview I posted on my site. Hicks is never far from my mind, but I really do think it’s extraordinary that this performance of familiar bits still strikes me as amazing when I imagine it live on television. Even today on cable you rarely see anything this bold and risky – and funny! Enjoy!

    • Liam_McGonagle

      Thanks, Joe! Another great bit.

      I’ve only begun to “get” Hicks in these last couple of years.

      It’s not that we’d never heard of him, but we totally took away the wrong message. As dumbass teenagers from the Midwestern Reich often will. To my coterie, or at least that part of the coterie that was most enthusiastic about him, thought his major importance was the drugs and profanity.

      My favorite bit of Hicks’ will always be his impersonation of Jay Leno being ass raped by Satan for shilling Doritos(tm) chips.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=693815840 Joe Nolan

    Was happy to be reminded of this censorship debacle by watching the interview I posted on my site. Hicks is never far from my mind, but I really do think it’s extraordinary that this performance of familiar bits still strikes me as amazing when I imagine it live on television. Even today on cable you rarely see anything this bold and risky – and funny! Enjoy!

  • 5by5

    LOVE Bill Hicks.

    What’s disingenuous about Letterman’s apology is that he knew EXACTLY why he balked and censored the performance — Hick’s called the extreme rightwing on it’s transparent bullshit in his usual blunt, honest manner, and Letterman got scared that he might get some nasty letters from the loons, or his corporate masters might give him a hard time. Wow. What a burden.

    But at least he apologized, and was man enough to admit he screwed up, and air the performance now. Most broadcasters now are going in the opposite direction. I absolutely hate it when I’m watching a movie or tv show, and some line will get bleeped, or an entire scene edited out (and it’s not even on network – it’s on cable) and I know “Dammit, I know I could see that whole thing unedited back in 1995,” or whenever, and I’m no worse for wear for having seen it, so why can’t I see it now? More irrational over-reaction. I call it the “Janet Jackson Nipple Effect”.

  • Anonymous

    LOVE Bill Hicks.

    What’s disingenuous about Letterman’s apology is that he knew EXACTLY why he balked and censored the performance — Hick’s called the extreme rightwing on it’s transparent bullshit in his usual blunt, honest manner, and Letterman got scared that he might get some nasty letters from the loons, or his corporate masters might give him a hard time. Wow. What a burden.

    But at least he apologized, and was man enough to admit he screwed up, and air the performance now. Most broadcasters now are going in the opposite direction. I absolutely hate it when I’m watching a movie or tv show, and some line will get bleeped, or an entire scene edited out (and it’s not even on network – it’s on cable) and I know “Dammit, I know I could see that whole thing unedited back in 1995,” or whenever, and I’m no worse for wear for having seen it, so why can’t I see it now? More irrational over-reaction. I call it the “Janet Jackson Nipple Effect”.

  • Liam_McGonagle

    Thanks, Joe! Another great bit.

    I’ve only begun to “get” Hicks in these last couple of years.

    It’s not that we’d never heard of him, but we totally took away the wrong message. As dumbass teenagers from the Midwestern Reich often will. To my coterie, or at least that part of the coterie that was most enthusiastic about him, thought his major importance was the drugs and profanity.

    My favorite bit of Hicks’ will always be his impersonation of Jay Leno being ass raped by Satan for shilling Doritos(tm) chips.

  • http://joenolan.com/blog Joe Nolan

    The Janet Jackson over reaction is a good example. You couldn’t even see anymore than if she’d been wearing a skimpy bikini on a 90210 episode. It is odd that America seems to be getting more puritanical here in the 21st Century.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=693815840 Joe Nolan

    The Janet Jackson over reaction is a good example. You couldn’t even see anymore than if she’d been wearing a skimpy bikini on a 90210 episode. It is odd that America seems to be getting more puritanical here in the 21st Century.

  • chonus

    One of my favorite bits describing Rush Limbaugh.

    http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=bill+hicks+rush+limbaugh&aq=5

  • Anonymous

    One of my favorite bits describing Rush Limbaugh.

    http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=bill+hicks+rush+limbaugh&aq=5

  • http://thefirstchurchofmutterhals.blogspot.com/ mutterhals

    I miss Bill.

  • http://thefirstchurchofmutterhals.blogspot.com/ mutterhals

    I miss Bill.

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    One of the greats…if he were with us now…oh the things he’d have to share.

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    One of the greats…if he were with us now…oh the things he’d have to share.

  • manitoidman

    “If your so pro-life why don’t you go picket cemeteries?” BH
    He was the best EVER!!!

  • Anonymous

    “If your so pro-life why don’t you go picket cemeteries?” BH
    He was the best EVER!!!

  • Hadrian999

    no justice in the world, he dies yet garbage like jeff dunham and dane cook will continue to pollute
    comedy for decades

  • Hadrian999

    no justice in the world, he dies yet garbage like jeff dunham and dane cook will continue to pollute
    comedy for decades

21