Saturday, January 31, 2009

Censorship Loses - Freedom of Speech Wins

Let's take a break from the economy. I know I need to.

The Letterman Show of Friday, January 30th was surreal, especially if you didn't know the backstory. I didn't.

So when they announced Mary Hicks would be the only guest and there would be a videotaped performance from Dan Hicks, I guessed he was dead, that his wife was going to be out there, and that it would be pretty weird. I got two out of three.

Mary Hicks is Dan's mother, and she was there at Dave's invitation to allow him to undo something that he says has been haunting him for years. In 1993, the show, which was still relatively new, cut Hick's entire performance - his twelfth appearance there. Fifteen years later Dave blamed his own insecurity for the decision. Translate that to he didn't feel like he could stand up to pressure from the network for a routine that was edgier than they found comfortable. What Dave didn't know was that Hicks was dying from pancreatic cancer. So the pain for both of them had to cut much, much deeper; there would be no second chance.

So Dave made amends on national television fifteen years later. He aired the entire routine, saying he hadn't watched it beforehand. That seemed very weird to me, too, until I found out the history. Now I get it. It's the ultimate hands-off - "I'm not even going to watch it first - just air it."

The routine was good - some anti-gay references felt prehistoric though the twist to voyeurism is probably timeless. What apparently scared the CBS back then were Hicks' attacks on Pro-Lifers. That was just funny - he pointed out that they're a pretty grim looking crowd for being so fond of life.

Hicks' mother was gracious, though she made no attempt to hide her bitterness or how hurt her son had been at the time.

And just a sidenote - if you check Wikipedia, Hicks went to his grave angry at a comic who he said stole his jokes, his routine and even his persona. The industry joke, apparently goes like this: Question: Why is Denis Leary a star while Bill Hicks is unknown? Answer: Because there's no cure for cancer.
Hicks told people he gave up smoking just to see if Leary would do it, too.

fascinating world, isn't it?

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