Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - July, 2011


"American: The Bill Hicks Story" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Clements



This documentary posthumously chronicles the life of comedian Bill Hicks from his early years to his untimely death at age 32.  The native Georgian started doing stand up as a teenager and over time he developed an acerbic style that largely defined his work.  For the most part, his best material went against the grain Stateside.  But he was able to flourish in the UK where his cynical take on America, Americans and American society resonated with audiences.


  • BBC
  • 2009, Color, NR, 1 Hr 41 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080i
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Bill Hicks, Kevin Booth and John Farneti
  • Directed by Matt Harlock and Paul Thomas
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Yes


The main feature is a detailed portrait of Bill Hicks' life.  It is told mostly via home movies and stills with voiceover narration by an ensemble of his family and friends although there are a few short clips of some of his actual stand up performances.  It is a very thorough look at Hicks' life beginning with his early years and ending with his death from pancreatic cancer in 1994.  The documentary covers the arc of his formative years all the way through his blossoming as an artist shortly before his death.  Hicks was raised in Texas and started doing stand up by age 15.  He had some early success when he moved to LA after high school.  He even made it on the Letterman show at age 22.  Eventually, Hicks got into drugs and alcohol and was almost destroyed by them.  He got cleaned up, rebounded and really started honing his material and delivery just at the time he got his cancer diagnosis.

I found the documentary to be interesting, but far too detailed for my tastes.  I would have preferred less detail on Hicks' life and more focus on his material and social impact.  I think the documentary would have benefitted immensely with extended segments of his later performances.


The video quality of this disc varied wildly depending on the source material.  The old home movies and SD video segments of his early sets limited their respective parts of the disc while the newly-shot interview material was pristine.  The audio on the disc suffers a similar fate as the video.


This disc has 351 minutes of extra material!  The extras include Rare Clips, Extended Interviews, Bill's Audio Journals, 9 Featurettes, Deleted Scenes and Alternate Scenes.  The rare clips were my favorite part, but they were short and there was no option to play them all with a single button press.  So you have to dive into the menu to play each of the many clips.  Again, the picture and sound quality was highly variable on the extras as well.