Saturday, March 27, 2010

A Bill Hicks Story

Comics are always asking me, "what was it like to work with Bill Hicks?" (Hicks was a wildly-inventive, uncompromising comic who died young of pancreatic cancer). I was reminded of this story while setting my clocks forward when daylight savings time resumed two weeks ago.

I was the booking agent for the Comedy Workshop in Houston, Texas, between 1984 and 1986. This meant I was the de facto agent for all the comics who made that club their home base. This included such acts as Sam Kinison (who was before my time), Brett "Grace Under Fire" Butler, Fred Greenlee, and - of course - Bill Hicks.

Now, no one doubted the talent of Bill Hicks. I had no trouble booking him in other clubs - once. But they usually didn't want him back because of his behavior. Hicks was doing a lot of drugs at the time. He'd insult anyone who he felt wasn't worthy of his talent (audience members or club owners). And he wouldn't get off stage on time. Sometimes he'd go an hour long!

So, sometime in the spring of 1986, I booked Hicks in Oklahoma. I can't recall if it was Tulsa or Oklahoma City. It was a week-long booking, Tuesday through Sunday. In fact, I supplied all three acts: MC, middle act, and Hicks as headliner. I arranged plane tickets for all three acts, and told the Oklahoma manager what time to pick the comics up at the airport - sometime around 3 pm.

Hicks came into my office on Tuesday morning. I handed him his ticket. I told him, "Bill, it's getting so I can't get you booked back anywhere. Please, please try and get through this one week without pissing off the management."

Hicks smiled and said "Sure." And left.

Around 3:30 that afternoon I get a call from an angry manager in Oklahoma. "They weren't on the plane. Where are they?"

Frantically, I started making phone calls. This was long before cell phones; a lot of people didn't even have answering machines. I couldn't get hold of any of the three comics, so I called their friends. No one knew anything.

Around 7 pm I got another call from the Oklahoma manger. "They're here."

Hicks had convinced the other comics to turn in their plane tickets for cash, rent a car, and drive to Oklahoma. And he didn't tell anyone!

He'd managed to piss off the Oklahoma manager before he even got there!

He ended the week in the same way. Hicks and the other two comics forgot that daylight savings time began that Sunday. They all showed up to the club an hour late. With no comics there, the manager had canceled the show.

I resigned as booking agent of the Comedy Workshop two weeks later.

No comments:

Post a Comment