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American Scream: The Bill Hicks Story Paperback – February 19, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

In 1993, not long after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, controversial comedian Hicks found his final, scathing appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman abruptly excised at network demand. Months later, at age 32, he was dead. Hicks's bitterly confrontational brand of comedy was not for everyone, but many were passionate about his work. Los Angeles-based journalist True here describes the evolution of Hicks's acerbic comedy standard, his many acquaintances inside and outside of the industry, his influences, and his tragic demise. True's accounts of the comedian's many adventures including his drug experimentation and booze binges, his explosive TV and concert appearances, and his volatile personal relationships are what make this book worthwhile, and Hicks's fans won't be disappointed. A number of rarely seen black-and-white photographs are scattered throughout the book, and Janeane Garofalo provides a foreword. A great addition to library collections that own Hicks's first two live-comedy CDs, Dangerous and Relentless. Recommended as a fascinating portrait of this unique individual and as the only existing biography of a trailblazing entertainer who left us far too soon. David M. Lisa, Wayne P.L., NJ
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Biographies rarely capture the uniqueness and vitality of a performer as deftly as this hilarious and touching chronicle of the short life of maverick comedian Bill Hicks. Rebelling from a rigid south Texas upbringing, Hicks focused his fury into a controversial career of ranting against all hypocrisy, from the Christian right's to that of hack entertainers, particularly shallow comedians, and the censorship of his act on David Letterman. True makes a strong case for Hicks as heir to Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor, putting hard truths in the guise of humor in a desperate attempt to educate and convert. Rather than seeming a martyr, however, Hicks comes across as a deeply, perhaps dangerously sensitive man blessed with extraordinary wit and a profound sense of justice, who tried night after night to work through his doubts, fears, and, of course, anger. The audience in many of the book's admirably constructed performance scenes seems to be simply along for the ride, with no idea of its ultimate destination, alternately laughing uproariously and sitting in bewildered silence. True shows great restraint in unfolding Hicks' story, often allowing his words to speak for themselves and demonstrating a vital sense of comic timing herself. After a moving account of Hicks' death from pancreatic cancer at 32, she concludes, "Four days later, Carrot Top won the American Comedy Award." Bill Hicks would have laughed. Will Hickman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: HarperPB; 1 edition (February 19, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0380803771
  • ISBN-13: 978-0380803774
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.2 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #899,447 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Cynthia True is the author of "American Scream: The Bill Hicks Story," (HarperEntertainment) the first-ever biography of Bill Hicks. True is also the co-creator and executive producer of the Emmy-winning Nickelodeon cartoon "The Mighty B!" starring Amy Poehler. Previously, True was a journalist, writing for Glamour, Rolling Stone, Time Out NY, Harper's Bazaar and Texas Monthly. She currently lives in Los Angeles.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 47 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 27, 2002
Format: Paperback
I fall into the "fanatical" camp when it comes to Bill Hicks. He's still the greatest comedian I've ever heard and his material has made a lasting impact on me ever since I first heard his albums when I was 18. Considering how Bill was so enthralled with the legacy left behind by Hendrix, The Stones etc I think it quite ironic that Bill, to me, is probably MORE 'rock and roll' than any one of them...
But anyway, the fact remains that fans have pretty much been starved of ANY new Bill material for years, and despite his growing cult status there are still just the same albums and videos around on the market.
So for other Hicks fans like myself, whether this biography is good or bad is largely irrelevant - we'll buy it regardless. But for those who haven't yet invested in a copy I would make the following comments...
Overall this book is a detailed and interesting account of Bill's life but it won't blow you away. It maps Bills life in quite good detail from an early age - some periods more interesting than others, and it certainly begins to pick up steam by the time it reaches 1990 (or, roughly, around the time Bill records "Dangerous") a period I think that should have taken up a greater chunk of the book.
Unfortunately I found True's style of writing to be quite matter-of-fact, and the lack of emotional involvement does make the book rather dry and often unengaging. I don't question True's credentials, but the feeling that were someone else given the same information who was perhaps as passionate about Bill as Bill was about, well....everything, then a better more vivid book would have been written.
Ultimately, it's a worthy addition to a far too small canon.
...and I really miss the guy.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Jon Konrath on August 17, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I never knew about Bill Hicks during his lifetime, and when I did finally stumble upon one of his albums a few years ago, it floored me that this genius had died of pancreatic cancer in 1994, and wouldn't produce any more material, while hack comics would put out barely-40 minute sets of their reworked material for years to come on Leno and HBO. So I've spent the last few years trying to dig up every shard I could on Hicks, and I was glad when True's book came out.
As far as a third-person biography, this isn't bad. Cynthia True did manage to do some research with friends and family, and put together a decent timeline of Bill's life. The detail on his childhood were especially interesting to someone who had only listed to the Hicks discography: stories of him doing standup at 14, hanging out with his friend Dwight and alternating between meditation workshops, planning their escape to LA, trying to get gigs as amateur comedians at talent shows in Houston, and putting together an infamous high-school band called Stress, which had a lot of mythology, but no real gigs.
The book does a good job of covering the rise of Hicks' comedy career, from the rough times in LA to the national circuit as comedy clubs took off in the 80s, to Bill's alcoholism and almost self-destruction on the road. It's strange to read about all of the ties he had to now-household names, from Seinfeld to Leno to Denis Leary (who ripped off a bunch of Hicks' jokes in his own act).
It's a page-turning read to find out more about the rise of this workaholic, who was trying to get TV shows written and books outlined pretty much to the end.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Charles Fukowski on July 7, 2005
Format: Paperback
A lot of the people trashing this book are die hard Hicks fans that feel the book isn't up to the same standard that Bill's comedy is, and they are completely correct. The author isn't a great writer, by any means. That doesn't mean the book isn't worth reading, though. Even though the writing is mediocre at best, the material is top notch. The biggest hack in the world could write about Hicks, and it would be worth reading, because he is that interesting. And one compliment I can give this author, is she is obviously a fan. She wrote this book lovingly, and it makes the ending of this book and his life that much sadder. If you're a Hicks fan, it's a must read. It's still very enjoyable. I look forward to a better BIO one day, but I could definitely live with this one.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Chase on March 23, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have been a Bill Hicks fan ever since my best friend turned me onto a few pieces of his routine. Since then, I've purchased every released CD and collected as much material as possible. I have to admit that I was a bit wary of my purchase of this book once I actually started looking at the reviews.
I'm not sure what was wrong with some of the other reviewers... I found this book absolutely stunning. It is well written and very informative.
There is but one point where I disagree with the author. She claims that identifying the life of Bill Hicks as a tragedy is missing the point. I started out thinking his life was a tragedy, read her book, and now I see it as an even bigger tragedy.
Nevertheless, she's written a very good book, and I can't help but recommend it to anyone with respect for the man.
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