Bill Hicks’ name has been in the news recently for very weird and dumb reasons, despite the fact that the comedian died twenty years ago. In his lifetime, he wasn’t particularly famous—he made occasional appearances on late-night television, but the sort of big-time success that household-name comics achieved in the early 90’s eluded him until his death, in 1994, of pancreatic cancer. (Denis Leary, whose most successful routines from that period sound an awful lot like more obscure routines that Hicks did years earlier, managed to find it, though.)
Leary aside, the list of comedians who wear—and cite—Hicks’ influence includes many of the biggest names of the last two decades. You can find traces of his approach to comedy in the work of David Cross, Marc Maron, Patton Oswalt, and countless others. Oswalt wrote about Hicks’ importance for Slate earlier this year; even comics who don’t like him remark upon his outsized influence on the field. He’s essentially the definition of a cult hero, the comedy equivalent of the longstanding line about the Velvet Underground: Only 40 people ever saw him play, but every one of them started a band of their own…
It makes sense that Hicks, who wore his Texas roots (he was born and raised in Houston, and spent some formative years in Austin) on his sleeve almost as much as he did his distrust for governments and love of cigarettes, would be honored in his home state. That’s something that the Houston Free Press is keen on, as the Houston Chronicle reports:
Over two years after initially announcing plans to fund the construction of a statue of Houston comedy legend, the organizers behind the project say that they are in the final casting stages.
Omar Afra with Free Press Houston announced an ambitious plan at Free Press Summer Fest in 2012 to commemorate the work of comedian Bill Hicks with a stone statue to be placed somewhere in the Houston area.
The project’s progressed since that 2012 announcement, and the Chronicle reports that the Hicks statue could be finished next year.
Enshrining a cult figure like Hicks in bronze is an interesting task. Statues are hard to place: George H.W. Bush, James A. Baker, Dr. Denton Cooley (who performed the first heart transplant) and Nolan Ryan have them in Houston, while Hicks’ former home in Austin has bronze versions of Willie Nelson and Stevie Ray Vaughan in prominent places. Hicks’ native home, not his adopted city, will be the eventual landing place for the statue, and Afra told the paper that he looks forward to working with the city to find the right spot for it:
The hard part will be then deciding where in Houston the statue will be placed. Afra would like it to be somewhere where it would be appreciated. If it is put somewhere on public grounds it would take a lot of cooperation with Houston city government, which Afra would actually welcome.
The Chronicle declares Montrose the most fitting neighborhood to house the Hicks statue, and that may be true—although given the changing demographics of the neighborhood, that likely means that, in the years to come, there’ll be a lot of residents and visitors gazing upon the bronze visage of the bearded, cigarette-smoking man with a microphone and saying, “Who the hell is that?” It seems almost fitting that in death, as in life, Hicks would alienate more people than he moved—but those who were moved will love it.