David Letterman righted a wrong – over 15 years too late.
On Friday night’s The Late Show With David Letterman, a long standing controversy was finally put to rest. Letterman invited Mary Hicks, the mother of late comedian Bill Hicks, to be a guest on the program. He aired a routine Bill did back on October 1, 1993, which at the time ended up being cut from the broadcast and never shown to the public.
I’m sure many out there are asking “What controversy?” or “Who’s Bill Hicks?” Allow me to fill in some blanks.
Bill Hicks was a brilliant and an ahead-of-this-time comedian from the 1980s and early 1990s. Originally from Houston, Texas, his style involved enlightenment with a sledgehammer (figuratively of course). He challenged Americans, who were embroiled in a pointless war in Iraq (the first one) and who embraced mindless things like shallow pop-culture icons and automatic religious beliefs to think for themselves. He did so by delivering controversial comedy routines that under no uncertain terms pointed out how ridiculous society was. I like his personal description of his comedy best though, "Chomsky with dick jokes."
Nothing was sacred to this man. Religion, politics, sex, drug use, smoking, society, his parents, he said things that made even the most open-minded blush. He was also funny as hell. Through his gifts of timing, strange faces, making very weird noises with the microphone, and introspective material that not only make you laugh but made you think, he was a mastermind of a genre that at the time was dominated by Gallagher and Carrot Top. Needless to say, he didn't get Radio City Music Hall gigs.
He was a celebrity in England and Australia, who openly embraced his forward-thinking. In the U.S. though, he was often shunned, censored, and once two Vietnam veterans broke his leg once after a gig. Bill Hicks was never pleased with how he couldn't get through to his own country and the oppression he faced for expressing his beliefs.
In 1984, Bill Hicks' long history with David Letterman started. Hicks made a strong impression after his first appearance on what was then Late Night With David Letterman on NBC, which aired at 12:30. Letterman became a big fan. Hicks appeared on the NBC version of the show 11 times and his 12th appearance came on Letterman’s new show, The Late Show With David Letterman, which had premiered few months earlier on CBS in an 11:30 timeslot.