Maybe they’ll put product placement in it?

April 14, 2011


I saw, earlier, a preview for a documentary coming out entitled American: The Life of Bill Hicks.  If you are familiar with Bill Hicks, I would you’re your head has exploded a little.  Maybe there’s something to the title I don’t know – maybe on his death bed he looked up and said, “When you speak of me, speak of me, if nothing else, as… an American.”  Possible.  But not likely. And I can even see what the filmmakers were probably going for, but it’d be like calling a Bruce Lee biography “Ass-Kicker: The Life of Bruce Lee.”

If you don’t know of him, Bill Hicks was a cynical, brilliant, acerbic, thoughtful, vicious comedian who died in 1994 at the age of 32 from pancreatic cancer.  Lots of people get compared to Lenny Bruce; he merits it – listening to him can be incredibly entertaining, but it can be equally discomforting.  He is raw and brutal and at times the sheer force of his anger can overtake his comedy.  Even his central point.

He railed against corporate entertainment.  (“Watching television is like taking black spray paint to your third eye”)

He railed against dark self-righteousness. (“The world is like a ride in an amusement park. And when you choose to go on it you think it’s real because that’s how powerful our minds are. And the ride goes up and down and round and round. It has thrills and chills and it’s very brightly colored and it’s very loud and it’s fun, for a while. Some people have been on the ride for a long time and they begin to question: “Is this real, or is this just a ride?” And other people have remembered, and they come back to us, they say, ‘Hey, don’t worry, don’t be afraid, ever, because this is just a ride.’ And we kill those people.”)

He railed against zealots. (“They call themselves pro-life.  That makes sense, doesn’t it?  Don’t they just exude joie de vivre?”)

He railed against being trapped in our jobs. (“’Hicks, how come you’re not working.’ 
I’d go, ‘There’s nothing to do.’ 
’Well, you pretend like you’re working.’ 
’Well, why don’t you pretend I’m working? Yeah, you get paid more than me, you fantasize. Pretend I’m mopping. Knock yourself out.”)

He railed against hypocrisy (“Let me tell you about gays in the military. I don’t want any gay people hanging around me while I’m killing kids. I just don’t want to see it.”)

But, perhaps most of all, he railed against advertising and selling out one’s integrity.  He loathed marketing.  He said that anyone who appeared in an advertisement was “off the artistic roll call forever.”  That nothing they said could ever again have any credibility.

So while on one hand calling the documentary “American” makes perfect sense, it just misses the point.  If I said the Unibomber was an eccentric, an outdoorsman and an avid writer I wouldn’t be wrong, but there’d be a chunk of the puzzle missing, wouldn’t there?

The most interesting part of the preview involves two things: first is the style of the preview – hear-warming music, uplifting images of a comedian travelling the land spreading his message of truth.  Is that what the film is like?  Who knows.  It’s a commercial, after all.  Their job is to get as many people as possible to see the film.  I think Hicks would have hated this ad with every microbe of his being.

And then, the second part.  At the tail end of the ad, connected to nothing in it, nothing that’s just happened, Hick’s voice says, “By the way, if any of you are in marketing or advertising?  Kill yourself.”

This gave me hope that the people who created the ad actually might have some awareness of the man – maybe this was, hopefully, a nod of awareness that, yes, we have created a smarmy, “triumph over adversity” feeling ad in an effort to make people pay us; and, yes, we are aware that Hicks would have wanted to put a cigarette out on our hands for doing this to him.

Of course the worst option is that they included that last bit in a callous attempt to hook the one’s who found the ad absurd and repellent.  But that’s not possible right?  No one would stoop that low.  Be that devious.  Not the people who created Joe Camel, and wrote “Sex” in the sides of Pepsi cans.  Not them.


About The Byronic Man

Recently voted "The Best Humor Site in America That I, Personally, Write," The Byronic Man is sometimes fiction, but sometimes autobiography. And sometimes cultural criticism. Oh, and occasionally reviews. Okay, it's all those different things, but always humorous. Except on the occasions that it's not. Ah, geez. Look, it's a lot of things, okay? You might like it, is the point.

View all posts by The Byronic Man


Subscribe to our RSS feed and social profiles to receive updates.

3 Comments on “Maybe they’ll put product placement in it?”

  1. pinkunderbelly Says:

    Love Bill Hicks. And he happens to be buried in a cemetery half a mile from my childhood home. True story.



  1. To kill a prophet « A little of Jesus - January 9, 2012

    […] Hicks, quoted by “The Byronic Man” Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. Published: January 9, […]

Every Time You Leave A Comment, An Angel Gets Its Wings.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: