Back in 2013, I wrote the following letter to a dead comedian named Bill Hicks. It went viral, to the point where this comedian’s brother, Steve reached out to me and asked if I would send his mother Mary a written copy of the letter.
I was so honored by this request that I printed a copy out on my firm’s letterhead and sent it to Mary. I got a handwritten response from her, and a few mementos that will be passed on to my kids one day.
I revisited the letter this morning. One aspect that’s always amazed me about Bill Hicks is he stands out in a select field including guys like George Carlin and Lenny Bruce, who will be forever relevant because of their contributions to history and the way they presented truth. Bill was a guy whose words can resonate across generations.
The text of the below letter still remains as relevant today as it did in 2013.
During my undergrad years, a friend exposed me to “Rant in E Minor.” I was immediately hooked, right from the start where you gleefully described the premise behind “Let’s Hunt and Kill Billy Ray Cyrus” all the way to the end of the album. I immediately bought all of your CDs that I could find at the time and began making my way through your catalog.
I’d never heard anything like what you had to say, and it resonated me. Years after you left this planet, your words still influence a generation of individuals who feel disenfranchised and as if they have no hope. I’m no comedian, Bill. I don’t have any real understanding of what makes humor work, but I can tell you this: You were a prophet.
Prophets don’t need to tell people omens of the future. Prophesy is simply a means of speaking the truth. And you spoke it with the fervor of a man with nothing to lose and a mission to tell the world what was going on.
The funny thing is this, Bill: You were right. You were right about so many things, and you don’t even get a chance now to see how scary right you were about some of your predictions. To illustrate, I’m offering up a couple of examples from your finer works:
“I’ll show you politics in America. Here it is, right here. “I think the puppet on the right shares my beliefs.” “I think the puppet on the left is more to my liking.” “Hey, wait a minute, there’s one guy holding out both puppets!” “Shut up! Go back to bed, America. Your government is in control. Here’s Love Connection. Watch this and get fat and stupid. By the way, keep drinking beer, you fucking morons.”—Rant in E Minor (1997)
You recorded that in 1992. Today, we live in a world where bipartisan bickering is the norm. Our congress is in a hopeless state of gridlock, fueled by hatred of either side’s beliefs. And nobody seems to notice there’s at least one man—if not more—pulling the strings of everybody who claims to pay attention to modern politics. They’re not watching “Love Connection” though—it’s “The Bachelor,” “Jersey Shore,” and “Hell’s Kitchen.” And the beer…we have more beer than you can imagine.
But the government is in control. Very much so. In fact, now we’re all being watched by the NSA. Our freedoms are slowly being taken from us by a police state that tells us we need to have less rights for the purposes of “national security.” Now the government just wiretaps your phone without a warrant or other court documents. If you choose to stay silent, you are implicitly guilty. These are things COURTS HAVE ALLOWED!!!
You were right, Bill. But it doesn’t stop there.
“Go back to bed, America. Your government has figured out how it all transpired. Go back to bed, America. Your government is in control again. Here. Here’s American Gladiators. Watch this, shut up. Go back to bed, America. Here is American Gladiators. Here is 56 channels of it! Watch these pituitary retards bang their fucking skulls together and congratulate you on living in the land of freedom. Here you go, America! You are free to do as we tell you! You are free to do what we tell you!”—Revelations (1993)
Did you know that American Gladiators is gone now, Bill? Now we have shows like “Wipeout” and “Oh, Sit!” where people get to laugh at the expense of others as they bumble, stumble, and flop their way through obstacle courses for the glory of acting stupid on television. The other part is the same, though. We live in a world where the government continues to tell us they’re in control, they’ve got it all figured out, and they are the ones we should trust. Meanwhile, our country seems to keep sliding downhill in education, prosperity, and happiness. People are more sick than ever. But the Government’s got it all figured out…that much they keep telling us. And we’re free, all right. Just like you thought. We’re free to do what they tell us.
“I have this feeling man, ‘cause you know, it’s just a handful of people who run everything, you know … that’s true, it’s provable. It’s not … I’m not a fucking conspiracy nut, it’s provable. A handful, a very small elite, run and own these corporations, which include the mainstream media. I have this feeling that whoever is elected president, like Clinton was, no matter what you promise on the campaign trail – blah, blah, blah – when you win, you go into this smoke-filled room with the twelve industrialist capitalist scum-fucks who got you in there. And you’re in this smoky room, and this little film screen comes down … and a big guy with a cigar goes, “Roll the film.” And it’s a shot of the Kennedy assassination from an angle you’ve never seen before … that looks suspiciously like it’s from the grassy knoll. And then the screen goes up and the lights come up, and they go to the new president, “Any questions?” “Er, just what my agenda is.” “First we bomb Baghdad.” “You got it …”—Rant In E Minor
This ended up being true as well, Bill. Not just corporations—MEGACorporations, billionaire industrialists, people with solipsistic worldviews—they run the world, and they control the people who run our country. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the Kennedy assassination footage got played every time someone else got elected President, just like you said. Just to keep the populace in line.
I’m beginning to see why you kept thinking the Presidents got older—visibly older—from the time they took office to the time they left. Must be the weight of all that poison on their shoulders, Bill.
It doesn’t stop with politics, Bill. Music’s been corrupted too. I remember this diatribe of yours fondly:
“Rick Astley? Have you seen this banal incubus at work? Boy, if this guy isn’t heralding Satan’s imminent approach to Earth, huh. “Don’t ever wanna make you cry, never wanna make you sigh … never gonna break your heart” … oh, I wouldn’t worry about that without a dick, buddy. You got a corn nut! You got a clit! You’re not even a guy! You’re an AIDS germ that got off a slide! They’re puttin’ music to AIDS germs, they’re puttin’ a drum machine behind them in a metronome beat and Ted Turner’s colorizing ‘em, God damn it! These aren’t even people man! It’s a CIA plot to make you think malls are good!! Don’t ya see? (Imitates stereotypical American in a robotic manner) “But Bill, malls are good! Malls allow us to shop 365 days of the year at a 72 degree heat. That must be good.”—Sane Man (1989)
I don’t even want to begin to tell you about “RickRolling,” Bill.
But there’s hope in this world, because some of us actually remember a few things you said for the good of the world:
“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. The ride goes up and down, around and around, it has thrills and chills, and it’s very brightly colored, and it’s very loud, and it’s fun for a while. Many people have been on the ride a long time, and they begin to wonder, “Hey, is this real, or is this just a ride?” And other people have remembered, and they come back to us and say, “Hey, don’t worry; don’t be afraid, ever, because this is just a ride.” And we … kill those people. “Shut him up! I’ve got a lot invested in this ride, shut him up! Look at my furrows of worry, look at my big bank account, and my family. This has to be real.” It’s just a ride. But we always kill the good guys who try and tell us that, you ever notice that? And let the demons run amok … But it doesn’t matter, because it’s just a ride. And we can change it any time we want. It’s only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings of money. Just a simple choice, right now, between fear and love. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your doors, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love instead see all of us as one.”—Revelations (1993)
Oh how I’ve carried that last one with me, Bill. You see, I choose not to be in fear. I choose not to be in hate. I choose to love. I choose to laugh. And no matter what, I choose to get on board, strap in, and throw my hands up in the air laughing and squealing wildly, because just like you said—this life, it’s “just a ride.”
See you on the other side, Bill.
Love, Laughter, and Truth,