EXHIBIT A: Leary Vs. Hicks is an experimental documentary meditation on the dangers of artistic theft in the world of stand-up comedy, and an expose on the little-known yet long-standing ... See full summary »
EXHIBIT A: Leary Vs. Hicks is an experimental documentary meditation on the dangers of artistic theft in the world of stand-up comedy, and an expose on the little-known yet long-standing allegation that performer 'Denis Leary' lifted much of his persona and act from fellow comedian Bill Hicks. Culled from hours of archive footage and presented here for the first time ever, the similarities in question are shown back-to-back allowing audiences to decide for themselves. Written by
A vote for this seems unnecessary...(9 for the sake of an issue's importance)
Comedian Bill Hicks: A+. As a person who grew up with a big interest in stand up comedy, I have to place Hicks in the top ten for the last century. I remember him being interviewed by Brent Bambury on Canada's CBC radio program "Brave New Waves" a few years before his tragic early passing. He mentioned how early mentor and friend Sam Kinison was the first comic he'd seen who didn't care if the audience liked him or not. That stay with your conscience approach influenced a great deal of Hicks' style and also took him over certain lines in a way he'd pay an enormous price for (ie, David Letterman and his coward producer deleting Bill's routine from a late in career appearance when Bill touched on some light in offensive quality bits that offended CBS' censors).
Respected in many countries for his go for the jugular honesty and fierce intellect, this born in Georgia boy (whose life and times are told in Cynthia True's "American Scream") grew from a barely pubescent stand up, partnered with childhood friend Dwight Slade, into a ready to take on the world alone young adult who knocked them dead when he moved out to LA from Texas at a tender age and became one of the brilliant talents (along with Jim Carrey and others) that would explode in the late 80s, changing that era's standard from "airplane food and convenience store" material that was the territory of lesser talents who filled up the nation's bowling alleys that were now semi-clubs for comedy. Hicks didn't suffer fools gladly and his refusal to play the show biz game like others did meant he wouldn't become a sitcom lead or star of not too challenging films.
Comedian Denis Leary: A-. He was (and is) a very smart and funny man, emerging from Boston's very aggressive and alcoholism fuelled club scene, later becoming a sharp and resourceful character actor in the process. Now, Leary is a husband and father who takes great exception to the whining of so many non-confrontational (as far as common sense goes) parents who are his contemporaries (if in age only). Leary was (and can still be) viciously direct in his material, taking on post 9-11 times in his gutsy "Rescue Me" program and remaining a good talk show guest when he appears with stories about his children and the crazy world they are inheriting.
The issue of material in comedy is very touchy in the best of times. "YouTube" is rife with professionals and amateurs offering their take on who presented what first. And "theft" isn't a new allegation to level, as big names like Milton Berle in the past and Robin Williams still, are accused of taking the jokes and stories of others for their routines. Not too long ago, Jay Leno wrote his autobiography and the reminiscing included at least one thing that didn't really happen to him!
Hicks was a militant smoker for quite a while after being a straight arrow till his early twenties. Leary smoked profusely onstage and his jibes at the nonsmoking portion of the audience are remarkably similar to Hicks'. I think here they were both dead wrong, the menace of the tobacco companies extending to being almost fully responsible for the careers of crypto Republicans like Jesse Helms getting elected and reelected. And smoking related deaths are (and were) responsible for millions of peoples' poor health standards in North America. The issue of free will is clouded by the sheer dishonesty of the heads of said tobacco companies, having no qualms about lying in front of US congress when testifying in Washington. Junkies, cokeheads, alcoholics and other habitual users of dangerous substances have kicked their habits with much less trouble than smokers. The politics of smokers and their poor choices will remain a hot topic forever because crying about one's freedom obscures the fact tobacco was and is doctored to facilitate nicotine dependency in users. The tobacco companies are the biggest drug pushers in the history of the world.
Hicks' and Leary's material will be analyzed by fans of one or both until everyone throws their hands up in the air and can't reach some court like final decision. To say anyone's thoughts and spoken words can never be quoted without formal acknowledgement is taking the idea of concept ownership a bit too far. Comedy is too rich with the human mix of groups and individuals to state only one person or section of the performers can address certain topics. The similarities between any number of two or more folks and their acts will be debatable and often, talent doesn't come before originality. The Houston scene Hicks returned to after his jaunt in LA was a newcomer friendly place where anyone who had the guts to get on stage was given a prominent slot, unlike New York and Los Angeles where stage time is fought over like scraps of food by starving prisoners. Leary came out of a rougher place and his persona isn't (couldn't be) that much different from many other firebrands who were young in the Reagan era.
My verdict: Leary guilty of 2nd degree comic material "leaning". Sentence: being ridiculed about it and suspect as an individual in show biz for the rest of his life! And in the court of fan life and not suffering the comics they love's bad habits and poor judgement, Hicks guilty of becoming a less true to his own health and common sense person with the obnoxious cigarette prop and rhetoric that came to dominate a large part of his pre-cancer life.
Listen to and learn from the people who make you laugh, but don't compromise your values to fully embrace what they did (or still are involved with) which fundamentally troubles your appreciation of their artistry. Comedy is important and it's also not the word of supreme beings one has to bow down before!
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