Bill Hicks left a comic legacy and influenced at least a generation of stand-up comedians.
One of the things Hick wrote offstage was his 12 Principles of Comedy. They were (reprinted via Chris Hardwick on Nerdist, circa 2009)
1. If you can be yourself on stage nobody else can be you and you have the law of supply and demand covered.
2. The act is something you fall back on if you can’t think of anything else to say.
3. Only do what you think is funny, never just what you think they will like, even though it’s not that funny to you.
4. Never ask them is this funny – you tell them this is funny.
5. You are not married to any of this shit – if something happens, taking you off on a tangent, NEVER go back and finish a bit, just move on.
6. NEVER ask the audience “How You Doing?” People who do that can’t think of an opening line. They came to see you to tell them how they’re doing, asking that stupid question up front just digs a hole. This is The Most Common Mistake made by performers. I want to leave as soon as they say that.
7. Write what entertains you. If you can’t be funny be interesting. You haven’t lost the crowd. Have something to say and then do it in a funny way.
8. I close my eyes and walk out there and that’s where I start, Honest.
9. Listen to what you are saying, ask yourself, “Why am I saying it and is it Necessary?” (This will filter all your material and cut the unnecessary words, economy of words)
10. Play to the top of the intelligence of the room. There aren’t any bad crowds, just wrong choices.
11. Remember this is the hardest thing there is to do. If you can do this you can do anything.
12. I love my cracker roots. Get to know your family, be friends with them.
Common sense, plus the experience and wisdom from someone who has lived these lessons.
Tim Dillon, a New Face in Montreal in 2016 who also won the “NY’s Funniest” contest, decided he’d update the 12 principles yesterday while waiting for his next gig in San Antonio yesterday. “I think it needs a revamp,” Dillon wrote to his friends.
So here’s his parody of the Hicks Principles of Comedy, tailored to this generation of stand-ups…
12) Tweet all day about Trump and Russia despite having never read one book about the FBI, CIA, and generally having a limited understanding of geopolitics.
11) Start a podcast where you interview people about relatable stuff like open mics and walking dogs.
10) Start a bar show with 12 or 13 coproducers. Try to average an audience of 4 people.
9) Have said show professionally photographed never showing the audience.
8) Have a hot take on every comedy controversy even tho you’ve only done it 8 times in 3 years
7) Blame the audience, the booker, racism, sexism, homophobia, anti white male bias, snowflakes, dumb hicks, etc never try to get better
6) Pick a part the comedy specials of legends and tell people what you liked and didn’t like. Do this while on your break at a day job.
5) Message someone twelve times to do their show. They didn’t see the first 11!
4) Never message anyone to do their show and complain you’re not booked.
3) Make sure you describe the rooms you don’t do well in as “cliquey.”
2) Write an article in the Huffington Post about comedy right before you quit
1) Waste time writing a Facebook status while alone in a hotel room in San Antonio when you could have easily written a new bit or a pilot.
Above: Tim Dillon, photographed during SXSW in March 2017 by Mindy Tucker.