American: The Bill Hicks Story, Matt Harlock & Paul Thomas, 107 mins (15)

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The Independent Culture

Bill Hicks was reckoned to be one of the most brilliant and abrasive stand-ups in America before he died from pancreatic cancer in 1994, aged 32.

This documentary shuffles family snapshots, multiple voiceovers and stand-up footage into a rather starry-eyed tribute. Raised by strict Southern Baptist parents in Houston, Texas, Hicks arrived on the LA comedy circuit in the 1980s to pioneer his brand of part-hectic, part-hectoring live routines that apparently had audiences in stitches. Well, I'm glad some people got him, because for all the talk of his greatness ("he went from being above-average to something spectacular") there wasn't much laughter at the press screening. He swears, he smokes, he harangues, he provokes; he bravely hauled himself out of a trough of drug and alcohol abuse; he is without doubt much-missed by family and friends. But on this evidence – awful to say it – he wasn't that funny.

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