Bill Hicks: Sane Man (1989)

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Released 16-May-2006

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Alternative Version-Extended Version, With Subtitles
Featurette-Outlaws Get Religion, Houston 1987
Featurette-Benefit For Arthur
Outtakes-Odds & Ends
Notes-About Sane Man
Rating ?
Year Of Production 1989
Running Time 80:17
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (52:18) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Kevin Booth
David Johndrow
Bula Bula
Stomp Visual
Starring Bill Hicks
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI ? Music Paul Anka

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles German
Smoking Yes, it features in his act!
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Although he left us more than twelve years ago, comedian and social critic Bill Hicks is as popular as ever. Last year saw the release of Bill Hicks Live on DVD in Region 4, which combined Canadian performance footage with a superb biographical documentary. Sane Man is a much earlier piece of work, recorded prior to his first album Dangerous in fact, and shows the beginnings of a career that was about to explode.

    Sane Man was filmed in Austin, Texas at The Laff Stop on July 14, 1989 in front of an enthusiastic crowd. Being much younger at this time, Bill's performance is decidedly more physical on stage and has a harder edge, in a way. Bill actually performed and filmed two shows that evening at the Austin venue, with the final product compiled from the strongest footage of the two. Initially, this performance was not made widely available for several reasons, the main reason being the hour-long program was intended as a pilot for HBO. This program was produced independently with a minimal budget so that Hicks could have control over the final cut. Watching the original cut of Sane Man (60:27) on this DVD, it is apparent that while the shows were filmed with some attention to quality, the post production equipment was a little sub-standard. A small amount of these videos were sold via mail order and the Austin concert existed as a bootleg for many years.

    In 1999, producer Kevin Booth revisited the unedited footage and compiled a longer cut of Sane Man (80:17), boasting superior video and audio quality. This longer cut is also included here, and makes for interesting viewing in comparison to the tighter, more condensed original cut. Granted, the quality is superior in the new cut, but as a performance it is a little drawn out. Some gags flow unnaturally long and pauses in dialogue are frequent while Bill waits for the audience to catch up, or recover. Additional outtakes from the Austin shows are included in the extras, reviewed below.

    As far as comedians go, Hicks is up there with the best. The man is uncompromising, firm in his beliefs and very confronting at times. A small portion of the material found here is very similar to the previous live DVD, but don't let that put you off. This material is most certainly not for children or those that are easily offended.

    If you'd like to read a little more about Hicks' life and career, check out my review of the previous DVD here.

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Transfer Quality


    This video transfer has been sourced from an analogue master tape, but this doesn't make the experience any less enjoyable. The video is standard 1.33:1 full frame, as you would expect, and exhibits many of the artefacts one would associate with such a source. This is almost certainly an NTSC conversion.

    Both cuts have an adequate level of clarity and are certainly watchable by anyone's standards. As I established above, the earlier cut is most affected by age and budgetary constraints, but this in no way affects the comedic value of the performance.

    Most colours are adequately handled and don't present any dire video issues. I didn't note any extreme instances of smearing or oversaturation.

    MPEG compression artefacting is absent for the most part. I recognised a few minor examples of MPEG grain around the opening titles, but in the big scheme of things these are not likely to offend the majority of viewers. A few minor analogue video hiccoughs are visible, such as tracking errors and the like. Again, I doubt most viewers will find them obtrusive.

    Only the extended cut of Sane Man is subtitled and unfortunately none of the four streams are English.

    This disc is DVD9 formatted, with the layer transition placed during the extended version at 52:18. The break was completely transparent on my system.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    Both cuts of the feature are accompanied by Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono audio. The quality varies here, particularly in the shorter version.

    The dialogue is easiest to discern in the extended version. Bill's microphone technique is great, so there are rarely any issues regarding microphone placement on the stage. I didn't notice any audio sync issues in the slightest.

    There is a slightly annoying level of tape hiss present in the shorter cut of the feature, which affects the audibility of the performance. There are also a number of moments of feedback during the shows as Bill wanders past his monitors at the front of the stage. One consolation is the absence of any annoying dropouts or pops in the audio.

    There is obviously no surround or LFE activity to report in what is essentially a mono sound mix.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    The menu pages are static and silent. There is no 16x9 enhanced content on this DVD.

Featurette- Outlaws Get Religion (Houston 1987) (16:26)

    This early footage of Hicks was captured with a single camera in the crowd. There is some familiar material here, but quite a bit of unfamiliar stuff as well. His encore, performed in a full Elvis jumpsuit, has to be seen to be believed.

Featurette- Benefit For Arthur (31:38)

    This half-hour performance was recorded using an amateur video camera on the side of the stage. The quality isn't particularly great, but historically it is of great value. Again, there is some familiar material here.

Featurette- Odds & Ends (11:20)

    A collection of bits and pieces from various sources, out-takes from the Austin performances and others, and an anecdote from Bill recorded on a lounge backstage.

Notes- Biography

    Ten pages of text, outlining Bill's upbringing, early love for performing, rise in popularity and untimely passing.

Notes- About Sane Man

    Fifteen pages of text, describing the Sane Man production and Bill's intentions for the project. Some of the content is duplicated from the above bio.

Discography (Hicks-ography)

    This complete discography covers each of Hicks' eight CD releases, as well as last year's Live DVD. Samples are played automatically for each title as they are selected using your remote.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This title is identical in content across all regions.


    Sane Man represents a younger Bill Hicks prior to his rise in popularity. It's a low budget production, and a must-see for fans of stand-up comedy.

    The video and audio transfers are limited by the analogue source material, but this does not detract from the quality of the performance.

    The extras will be considered highly valuable by devotees.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Rob Giles (readen de bio, bork, bork, bork.)
Saturday, June 03, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-3910, using DVI output
DisplaySanyo PLV-Z2 WXGA projector, Screen Technics Cinemasnap 96" (16x9). Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVR-2802 Dolby EX/DTS ES Discrete
SpeakersOrpheus Aurora lll Mains (bi-wired), Rears, Centre Rear. Orpheus Centaurus .5 Front Centre. Mirage 10 inch sub.

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