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Bill Hicks - icon of the world of comedy

When stand up comedian Bill Hicks died in 1994 at the age of 32, he was already regarded as the finest comic of his generation.

Bill Hicks, Agent of Evolution By K. Booth and M. Bertin HarperCollins, ?20

When stand up comedian Bill Hicks died in 1994 at the age of 32, he was already regarded as the finest comic of his generation. A ranting polemicist who combined philosophical insights with gags ("just call me Noam Chomsky with dick jokes") Hicks became an icon to his fans while remaining anonymous outside the world of comedy.

Agent of Evolution works as an intimate account of the life of a genius, but many fans might be surprised at the bitterness of so many of Hicks's colleagues. Author Booth seems he's more interested in settling old scores than throwing new light on Bill. Particularly obnoxious is his disgust that Hicks went to conventional doctors with the cancer that would ultimately kill him.

"Bill always hated Western medicine," Booth says. "Maybe I'm wrong but I can't help but feel that he failed a test by using conventional medicine." It's a loathsome sentiment but one that is indicative of the way so many people looked at Hicks - as a spritual leader as well as a comedian.

American comic Rhett Butler once said that "Bill doesn't want to be a comedian, he wants to be Jesus", and while his Southern Baptist upbringing and love of preaching often gave him a Messianic zeal, the most obvious similarity between himself and Jesus is not the early demise, but the in-fighting of his disciples after his death.

Hicks was obsessed with religion and spirituality. In fact, much of his best material was about religion, and showed a brain that was both subversive and furiously intelligent.

Bill Hicks touched and changed countless lives but ultimately his death was tawdry and tragic. Bad business decisions and a general contempt for money meant he had to move in with his parents before he died, and he couldn't afford the $1,000 a pop chemo sessions that might have prolonghed his life.

Hicks deserves a better testimonial than this, and it's hard not to think that Booth would have been better served doing something else with his time - therapy immediately springs as one option.

Ian O'Dohery writes the ISpy column for the Irish Independent

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