In the wee hours of Thursday I had a hard time sleeping. There wasn't a whole lot on TV that was of interest except for for two hour segment on THE BIOGRAPHY CHANNEL about comedians who's lives ended prematurely and tragically. It was a long list; Richard Pryor, Bernie Mack, John Belushi, Phil Hartman, Chris Farley, Freddie Prinze, and Richard Jeni, among others.
But one stood out in this broadcast, Bill Hicks, who many reading this may be too young to remember. Bill died of pancreatic cancer on February 26, 1994; he was only 32 years old. His professional performing career spanned roughly the early 1980's until the time his illness forced him to withdraw. Hicks performed on David Letterman's shows on NBC and CBS eleven times during his career, which really began to take off in the early 1990's...it was then his illness was discovered.
In October 1993 Hicks performed on LETTERMAN for the last time. The following is a passage taken from the Bill Hicks website.
In October, Hicks taped a performance for David Letterman that became one of his most infamous moments. Returning to his hotel following the early evening taping, Bill was told that censors had cut his segment. In a 39-page letter to John Lahr of The New Yorker, Bill expressed his frustration. He had reason to be enraged; the set had been approved (twice!) by the powers that be. It would’ve been his last television appearance. The set was finally aired on January 30, 2009 when Letterman had Bill's mother as that night's Late Show guest. Bill's last live gig was on January 6, 1994 at Caroline’s in New York City – he did not complete the series of shows.
Despite his illness, Bill was at peace. He spent time with his parents, playing them the music he loved and showing them documentaries about his interests. He called friends to say goodbye and re-read J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Fellowship Of The Ring.
Here's the segment that was cut from the show, broadcast on January 29, 2009. Bill's mother Mary Hicks was Dave's guest.
For more information, visit the Bill Hicks website.