“Good evening, my name is Bill Hicks. 23 years old right now, and boy are my arms tired.” That line, delivered just shy of four minutes into the video below, is the moment when it really clicks that you’re watching a remarkable time capsule. Bill Hicks was just 23 years old when he performed this set in Indianapolis. Recorded in 1985, the set had never been uploaded to the internet—until yesterday. According to the uploader, a user named “ifiwantto,” the late comedian had only made one appearance on David Letterman’s Tonight Show at the time of this recording. Hicks had yet to gain the notoriety that would lead to the recording of classic standup albums and videos like Relentless and Revelations.
This is not a “never before seen” situation, however: this recording was included in The Complete Collection, a limited edition, comprehensive box set released in 2015. But it is the first time that this video has been uploaded online and made available for all to see. During the set, Hicks touches on topics that were frequently featured in his later routines—the Beatles, southerners, common everyday acts of idiocy, philosophy, and art. It’s one of his more laid-back performances, unlike the infamous “Chicago incident” tape, which has been uploaded and referenced repeatedly over the past two decades. In that tape, recorded in 1989, Hicks can be seen yelling at a woman (using one inflammatory expletive in particular) who heckled him from the audience.
Hicks rarely makes headlines these days, though occasionally news will surface regarding a biopic about the comedian, who died in 1994 from pancreatic cancer. In 2018, Richard Linklater signed on to direct a biopic about Hicks, but no further information has been released in the time since.