Bill Hicks: Kill yourself

I make my living as an advertising copywriter. Slightly painful when one of your comedy heroes wishes you dead because of your choice of profession…

 "By the way if anyone here is in advertising or marketing... kill yourself. No, no, no it's just a little thought. I'm just trying to plant seeds. Maybe one day, they'll take root - I don't know. You try, you do what you can. Kill yourself. Seriously though, if you are, do. Aaah, no really, there's no rationalisation for what you do and you are Satan's little helpers, Okay - kill yourself - seriously. You are the ruiner of all things good, seriously.

No this is not a joke, you're going, "there's going to be a joke coming," there's no fucking joke coming. You are Satan's spawn filling the world with bile and garbage. You are fucked and you are fucking us. Kill yourself. It's the only way to save your fucking soul, kill yourself. Planting seeds. I know all the marketing people are going, "he's doing a joke"... there's no joke here whatsoever. Suck a tail-pipe, fucking hang yourself, borrow a gun from a friend - I don't care how you do it. Rid the world of your evil fucking machinations. I know what all the marketing people are thinking right now too, "Oh, you know what Bill's doing, he's going for that anti-marketing dollar. That's a good market, he's very smart." Oh man, I am not doing that. You fucking evil scumbags! "Ooh, you know what Bill's doing now, he's going for the righteous indignation dollar. That's a big dollar. A lot of people are feeling that indignation. We've done research - huge market. He's doing a good thing." Godammit, I'm not doing that, you scum-bags! Quit putting a godamm dollar sign on every fucking thing on this planet!"

 Aw, he’s just joking isn’t he, that crazy guy. Had me going for a while there. 

I mean, he is just joking, isn’t he?

Rik Mayall, master clown

In ‘Bottom’ Rik Mayall was blown up, electrocuted, stabbed, dismembered, bashed with several dozen frying pans, and had so much random violence visited upon him by Ade ‘Eddie Hitler’ Edmondson he should have died a thousand comedy deaths. So it’s all the more ridiculous that in real life he should be taken from us by a painfully ordinary heart attack.

 Like most people, I first saw Rik Mayall in ‘The Young Ones.’ It was the show that really nailed all the silliness, vanity and confusion of the early 80s. And although Rick was the most grotesque creation of all the characters in the student house, he was perhaps the one who revealed the most truth – or the real horror – that lay only partially concealed in us all.

 I’ve been watching old episodes of ‘Bottom’, and it struck me that I was watching a Master Class in clown (note the use of capitals there). Bottom is terrific and very violent slapstick. Put red noses on the actors and hey presto, welcome to the circus.

 But Rik Mayall was a particularly interesting clown specimen. Whether he knew it or not, his clown was a perfectly crafted bouffon. Had he studied it? I don’t know.

 Here’s a description:

“According to Gaulier, Bouffon is an art form which originated with the 'Ugly People' of France during the French Renaissance. Gaulier said excessively ugly people, lepers, and those with disfiguring scars or deformities were "banished to the swamp." The exception was during festivals, when the bouffon (or ugly people) were expected to entertain the 'beautiful people.

During these performances, the buffon's goal was to get away with insulting or disgusting the beautiful people as much as possible. Typically, the Bouffon would target their attack on the leaders within the mainstream of society, such as the government or the Roman Catholic Church.” –Wikipedia.

Not a million miles from Rick in the Young Ones?

Clown v stand-up

Comedians have been the new rock and roll almost as long as there’s been rock and roll. They have a lot in common with rock stars anyway. They’re often often sexy beasts… Louche. Dangerous.  Think of Lenny Bruce. Bill Hicks. Eddie Murphy.

But I defy you to name a rock star clown. No, David Bowie doesn’t count – even though he trained as a mime, he is first and foremost … well… David Bowie.


I’ve heard it said that the difference between comedians and clowns is that a comedian tells jokes, whereas the clown is the joke. This may account for some of the stick clowns get from their audience. A comic telling a joke in a club is not at odds with the audience, they are complicit. They are like the slick and funny friend you wish you had. The clown by contrast is a screw-up, an idiot who deserves our pity, and there is a thin line between pity and contempt. No matter what universal truths this artist tries to communicate, his message is lost in the physical translation.