This is a great double DVD of Bill in concert and a documentary about his act. It is so good to see him do his thing live, and to see him get some recognition from his peers although it is a little late in retrospect. This is the place to go for your first outing of live Bill, the political satire is especially good and what Bill should ultimately be remembered for.
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About 10 years ago, my first experience of Bill was this DVD. It made me see, for the first time, that there were still Prophets in the World who spoke out & challenged the status quo & made people sit up & think about what life should be like - kind, compassionate & filled with truth. As I've now read, seen & heard almost everything ever made about or by Bill, I thought it was a good time to go back to the start of many people's journey's and see if this matched up to other potential starting points in the form of American Scream: The Bill Hicks Story & the new film: 'American - The Bill Hicks Story'.
Happily it does & it is surprising how insightful this DVD can be, despite the fact that its contents have been widely diseminated across the internet (e.g. the 'It's Just a Ride' routine on Zeitgeist).
As an example, the documentary 'It's Just a Ride' provides many interviews & perspectives which have been forgotten with time. One curious thing I found was how unequivically praising Jay Leno was of him & how many times he featured as a commentator (given that Bill regularly did an infamous routine satirising Leno & imitating him blowing his brains out). Also in this documentary are comments from Bill's dad (who passed away before the latest documentary) & also many comments by contemporary comics & critics who have faded into obscurity now but help place Bill in his proper context. There are also some very interesting observations, such as that Bill didn't want to be Lenny Bruce but was more looking to be Jesus (during his angriest moment at the Temple).
Moving on from the documentary, there is Bill's performance at the Dominion theatre in London, which was almost undeniably his finest performance. Whereas Bill always seemed slightly unwelcome & at odds in America, he always seemed on top form when in the UK (e.g. Salvation - Oxford, 11/11/1992). This performance is no exception & the British audience seems to inspire Bill to bring out his best material & be most at ease on stage.
There is also the fact that this was (barring TV performances on Letterman) Bill's biggest ever live audience &, rather than being dwarfed by the set-up (as he feared), he seems to make it his own.
The first thing after the documentary is a short intro video to his live performance about how Bill was born in 1961 & always wanted to be a cowboy ("Fighting corruption & speaking out for truth and justice"). Irony is that apparently Hicks couldn't ride a horse, but the set-up is still very well executed.
As Bill walks on stage following the intro to the sound of Jimi Hendrix, he is seen silhouetted against fiery flames in a black cowboy hat & coat. To give you a flavour of what's on the DVD, here is a tracklist of what's on here (as one doesn't seem available elsewhere):
Track 3 ('LA & the Weather') is about Los Angeles & its 'hot & sunny weather' & also his routines about the LA riots. 4 ('It's Hard to Quit Smoking') involves his normal routines about smoking but this time with the twist that he's just quit. Track 5 ('Arming the World') covers George Bush & how sold weapons to the Koreans in an attempt to win votes in the 1992 election & also about him selling the Iraqi's "machine-tools" which, as if by magic, were converted into weapons. (e.g. the 'flame throwing rake'!) This bit includes his oft-quoted Shane routine. Track 6 ('JFK') is Bill's routine about the JFK assassination & the assassination museum & how, if you could go up the window, you would notice how impossible it would be for Oswald to have killed him. 7 ('Christianity') is Bill's satire of Creationists & his discussion with them about Dinosaurs. 8 ('Grassy Knoll') is based on Bill's observation about 'Christians and crosses' & then continuing with a further routine on JFK & the gunshot heard on the Grassy Knoll. 9 ('Stuntmen & Chuck Norris Movies') involves how to top the stunts in Terminator 2 in other films using an ingenius new method... 10 ('Pizza & Marketing') is another famous routine featuring the bit where Bill says about "Anyone without advertising or marketing... Kill yourself!". 11 ('Basic Instinct') is Bill's opinion on one of the 90's biggest films & how it is in fact a piece of s**t. 12 ('Goat Boy') is the most infamous routine of all, involving Bill acting out his alter ego 'Randypan the Goatboy' whose only purpose is to give women pleasure. 13 ('British Porn') follows on from the Goatboy routine about how British porno's used to have blue dots covering the *ahem* best bits. 14 ('Smoking Pot'): Actually more of a routine on rednecks & how there are too many people in the World. 15 ('The Playground in the Sky'): Children on airplanes. 16 ('Good & Bad Time on Drugs'): Another famous routine about God leaving pot & mushrooms growing everywhere on the planet to facilitate our evolution. 17 ('Suckers' of Satan'): Bill's bit about Vanilla Ice sucking Satan's *ahem* pecker in order to attain fame. 18 ('Positive Drug Stories'): About how he never hears positive drugs stories on the news. Also includes the 'Just a Ride' ending (the best ending to any comedy routine...err... ever.)
Two downsides with this DVD. First off there are no extras on the DVD. Admittedly this is because 1994 was still a year or VHS videos & so Extras didn't really exist (on DVD's, the documentary would usually be part of them). However, it would still be good to see some on here (though this is compensated by the 5 hours of extras on the new film).
Second, there is an outright lie on the cover of the DVD. When I first saw it, I hadn't noticed it as I thought it genuinely was true. In hindsight - it isn't "Hick's last live performance", however much we might want it to be. (Hicks' last live performance was at Igby's in Houston, Texas, ending with a bearded Hicks yelling along to Killing In The Name by Rage against the Machine.)
All being said though, this is still the best DVD/Book/CD around on Hicks, covering all his usual material but with a confidence & clarity that is just not seen in any of his other complete sets (though the edited CD's do capture some of it). And, if this DVD is on your shelf gathering dust or has been scratched to hell, then I think its time you looked into it again too. It may now be 16 years old, but still Bill Hicks remains unsurpassed.