It wasn’t the impetus or the purpose of American: The Bill Hicks Story to work up a fervor. And it hasn’t, sadly. But the film does go a long way to piecing an entire life together and turning in a pretty entertaining feature along the way.
Directed by Hicks’ childhood friend, sometimes writing partner and musician Kevin Booth, the film’s honcho includes interviews, perhaps more candid than otherwise could have been expected considering the guy’s relationship with the Hicks family. Each member – mom, dad, brother and sister – reveal initial surprise at what Bill was interested in. And it seems that almost no one was really prepared to see him to a set while Bill was still in his teens.
As the film unfolds – it’s all in chronological order – and Bill heads to Los Angeles, it seems his family just up and accepted the fact that a career in show biz was what the guy wanted. There’s a bit about drugs tossed in, but that seems to have functioned as sensationalism as much as anything else. But after struggling on the coast and heading back to Texas, Bill continued touring and playing relatively unrewarding gigs. There’s nothing shameful in playing dives, but any entertainer wants to achieve a wider audience. And it seemed that he States wasn’t the right place to do it.
Somehow, Hicks finds himself doing well at shows in England – he gets to trash talk the way the States functions, but never the people who populate it, well the people who he agrees with. His particular approach seemed to work and it worked well even as he wasn’t able to get a proper foot hold back home.
Throwing the progress off track, though, was the fact that Hicks was eventually diagnosed with cancer. The comedian didn’t tell his closest friends at first, but would reveal his ailment some time on after eat a batch of mushrooms with his cohort.
Despite the potential for a dour tone concluding the film, Booth’s able to muster enough superlatives from his interview subjects as to make the end of Hicks’ life was, in some ways, just a final few months of scurrying to finish a few projects. Weird, but entertaining.