An old showbiz controversy will be resolved tonight when Mary Hicks appears on The Late Show With David Letterman to watch a routine her son Bill taped for the show on October 1, 1993. Back then Bill Hicks was America’s most incendiary political comic and the routine was cut from the broadcast, even though the producers had cleared the material in advance. One joke that got Hicks bounced: “If you’re so pro-life, do me a favor. Don’t lock arms and block medical clinics. Lock arms and block cemeteries. Let’s see how committed you are to this premise.” Five months later Hicks himself was dead, of pancreatic cancer at age 32.
The Letterman incident has been a cornerstone of the Hicks myth, yet ironically it gave his career a big shot in the arm, prompting John Lahr to write a long and admiring profile of him in the New Yorker. He certainly got more mileage out of the controversy than he would have from another Letterman spot. All the same, I’m eager to see this long-shelved video footage.