Instant Gratification Quick Takes: June 29, 2011

Highlighting odd and off-beat new releases to watch instantly on Netflix


New for June 29, 2011

American: The Bill Hicks Story (2010), directed by Matt Harlock and Paul Thomas with Bill Hicks, his family, friends and peers – This is a phenomenally obvious understatement, but Bill Hicks was taken from us way too early. The Southern Baptist-raised Texan broke out of the conservative mold from which he was cast to become one of the hottest young comedians of the late 1980s, but never quite got that superstar push he deserved. Tragically, he died of pancreatic cancer in 1994 at the age of 32 before ever realizing his reaching the megastar status he deserved. Imagine what Bill Hicks would have done with the Internet. Imagine what he would have had to say about the Internet? Imagine what his Twitter feed I would have looked like? Hicks was struck down by cancer when I was in the 10th-grade, a time when I could have benefited from his views on life, politics, sex, UFOs and the JFK Assassination. American is probably the definitive Bill Hicks documentary, a concise document of his life as told by the people who lived it with him. I’ve been waiting to see this for a while, ever since “discovering” Bill Hicks a few years ago. If you haven’t seen Hicks’ stand-up, go — now — download some of his albums off of Itunes or look him up on YouTube. Hicks’ stand-up was confessional in a way unlike any other comedian at the time. And boy was he funny, especially when he got started on some of his favorite topics — drugs, Republicans, Bush Sr., drugs. It wasn’t necessarily about the jokes, although Hicks had some killer punchlines. (An example: A bit where he talks about an obnoxious child he encountered on a plane flight who he says he saw playing with the latch to the plane’s EXIT door. Hicks imagines the child being sucked out of the plane, before delivering the coup de grace: “They really do get cuter the smaller they get!”) Really, it was Hick’s delivery which made his act unique. When he was on stage, Hicks spoke with emotion that could only come from really believing what he was saying. There was nothing detached about the way he went about performing for an audience. His was no carnival act. His were the mad words of an angry, prophetic, tortured genius who never should have gone when he did. (Available until June 29, 2013)


There’s actually a whole lot of Bill Hicks-related material to watch instantly on Netflix, most of it having been added in the last few months. How about nearly 3 hours of his best stand-up in Bill Hicks Live: Satirist, Social Critic, Stand-Up Comedian?


There’s also Bill Hicks: Sane Man, a performance film from 1989 which combines some of his stand-up with footage from his life. I found the editingof footage of Hicks just hanging out or traveling on the road spliced over Hicks’ stand-up routine detracted from the performance. It’s worth checking out if you’re a Hicks completist. If you’re unfamiliar with him, you might want to give it a pass.


Hey! Follow me on Twitter at @CM_MattDunn!

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