The June 2010 'Sports' issue of Esquire has been on stands a fortnight, and includes my penultimate film column for the mag, a write-up of the new documentary American: The Bill Hicks Story. I'm a big fan of Hicks, honest Injun - yet it occurs to me that anyone reading the Esquire piece might not believe it. I daresay I sound a bit iffy, a bit niggly. In part that's what an 800-word ceiling does to you: the nuance is sometimes lost, other times a great swathe of what you might really want to say simply doesn't fit. But on reflection I think I spent too many of those 800 words having a mild and pointless dig at the cult of Hicks. I do think his work has inspired too many glowing estate-approved documentary products, too many bad rock songs, too many slackly-assembled biographies. And he is one of those comics who are so great that they can leave their admirers parroting the material like scripture... But, whoah, whoah, what am I saying? There I go again... The main fact is, Hicks was a genius comic, and he died too soon - they shouldn't die, people like that. End of story.
David Letterman is quite a funny man too, if a rum cove at times, and he made himself something of a villain in the Hicks legend, by cutting (on grounds of 'taste' and network sensitivities) what would have been Hicks' final TV stand-up spot from his Late Night show in 1993. In 2009, Letterman invited Hicks' mother Mary onto the show, to apologise for his original misjudgement and loss of nerve, and to debut and showcase the previously excised Hicks performance. It's on YouTube, and is of course hilarious. But below is Letterman's opening apology, which I find very moving, in spite of the audience's uncomprehending chuckles.