Today marks the 20th anniversary of the death of original king of caustic comedy, Bill Hicks – an originator of the rambling, stand-up rant and, arguably, one of the greatest entertainers of all time.
On the 16 June 1993, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The disease quickly spread to his liver, forcing him to undergo weekly chemotherapy while he toured and recorded his album, Arizona Bay, with American Drug War director Kevin Booth.
At the time, he was also working with comedian Fallon Woodland on the pilot of a brand new comedy talk show, Counts of the Netherworld.
And the cancer became the butt of his jokes – any given performance, he used to quip, could be his last. His final show took place on 6 January 1994, and shortly afterwards, he moved back to his parent’s home in Little Rock, Arkansas, where he died two weeks later at the age of 32.
But in his untimely death he left behind a legacy of laughs. Including these 10 classic examples:
1) The Dad Joke
"I never got along with my dad. Kids used to come up to me and say, 'My dad can beat up your dad.' I'd say 'Yeah? When?'"
2) The Blue Joke
"I can speak for every guy in this room here tonight. Guys, if you could blow yourselves, ladies, you'd be in this room alone right now. Watching an empty stage."
3) The Christian Joke
"Lots of Christians wear crosses around their necks… You really think when Jesus comes back, he ever wants to see a f*cking cross?"
4) The Equality Joke
"I believe that there is an equality to all humanity: We all suck."
5) The Absolute Classic
"It's always funny until someone gets hurt. Then it's just hilarious."
6) The Amusement Park Joke
"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 coloured 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."
7) The Pot Joke
"They lie about marijuana. Tell you pot-smoking makes you unmotivated. Lie! When you're high, you can do everything you normally do just as well - you just realize that it's not worth the f*cking effort. There is a difference."
8) The Reader Joke
"You know I've noticed a certain anti-intellectualism going around this country ever since around 1980, coincidentally enough. I was in Nashville, Tennessee last weekend and after the show I went to a waffle house and I'm sitting there and I'm eating and reading a book. I don't know anybody, I'm alone, I'm eating and I'm reading a book. This waitress comes over to me (mocks chewing gum) 'what you readin' for?'...wow, I've never been asked that; not 'What am I reading', 'What am I reading for?' Well, goddamnit, you stumped me...I guess I read for a lot of reasons — the main one is so I don't end up being a f**kin' waffle waitress. Yeah, that would be pretty high on the list. Then this trucker in the booth next to me gets up, stands over me and says [mocks Southern drawl] 'Well, looks like we got ourselves a readah'...aahh, what the fuck's goin' on? It's like I walked into a Klan rally in a Boy George costume or something. Am I stepping out of some intellectual closet here? I read, there I said it. I feel better."
9) The Weather Joke
"Today a young man on acid realized that all matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration, that we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively, there is no such thing as death, life is only a dream, and we are the imagination of ourselves. Heres Tom with the Weather!"
10) The Evolution Joke
"Folks, it's time to evolve. That's why we're troubled. You know why our institutions are failing us, the church, the state, everything's failing? It's because, um – they're no longer relevant. We're supposed to keep evolving. Evolution did not end with us growing opposable thumbs. You do know that, right?"