Love All The People
by Bill Hicks
(Soft Skull)

There are stand-up comedians like Eddie Murphy and Jerry Seinfeld, who make their careers perfecting the craft of joke telling, and then there are monologists such as Lenny Bruce and Steve Martin, who wind up in comedy clubs because they happen to be hilarious and there's no other format for what they do. Bill Hicks, a Texas-raised comedian who died of pancreatic cancer in 1993, was decidedly in the second category. The only comic ever to be censored from Letterman's show, Hicks was a chain-smoking, thought-provoking fountain of libertarian, anti-corporate/government sentiment. If this doesn't sound particularly funny, don't worry; Hicks would tell his audience that dick jokes are on the way. Soft Skull Press has assembled an amazing collection of Hick's best routines, interviews, letters, and essays in Love All The People.

In criticizing poetry, it is bad form to discuss a poem solely in terms of its form or its content. The two are symbiotic and cannot be extracted. The same goes for Hick's dark, dark humor--which had me literally drooling the bed to keep from waking my wife up--and his rants against anti-intellectualism, pop music, and all other forms of mediocrity.

On hypocrisy: "The Supreme Court says pornography is any act that has no artistic merit and causes sexual thoughts. That's their definition. No artistic merits. Causes sexual thoughts. Hmmmm. Sounds like almost every commercial on TV to me."

On celebrity endorsements: "Every word that comes out of your mouth is now like a turd falling into my drink."

It sounds pretentious to suggest that reading this book will both rock your foundation with laughter and make you question some of the serious assumptions about contemporary life that we take for granted, but I'm suggesting it anyway. Hicks was a funnyman who used humor as the sugar cube to accompany his spoonful of truthfulness. As he once wrote in a letter: "If comedy is an escape from anything, it is an escape from illusions. True comedy turns circles into spirals. What before seemed a tiresome, frightening, or frustrating wall, the comic deftly and fearlessly steps through, proving the absurdity of it. Good comedy helps people know they're not alone. Great comedy provides an answer."

Support The Portland Mercury

SLAY Film Fest
In person at the Clinton St. Theater 10/29 & 10/30