Love, Cough Syrup, and Karate: Bill Hicks’ NINJA BACHELOR PARTY


If I have to explain to you who Bill Hicks is then you aren’t the proper audience for this blog. The man’s been dead for nearly two decades but the modest comedic legacy he left behind has made a greater impact on the evolution of modern comedy than anyone who has come along since, even the greatest stand-ups and actors and filmmakers. If you have no idea who I’m talking about then go buy some of his albums or DVDs or at the very least go watch some of his stand-up specials on YouTube right now. Then come back and read this.

Hello, and welcome back. In the years prior to his untimely death from pancreatic cancer Hicks devoted whatever time his increasingly hectic schedule would allow to making a half-hour action-packed comedy short title Ninja Bachelor Party. Along with his friends Kevin Booth (who wrote a fantastic biography of the late comedian in 2006 called Bill Hicks: Agent of Evolution that is currently out of print but I highly recommend a purchase, which you can do HERE) and David Johndrow, Hicks wrote, directed, and played several roles in this epic over-the-top martial arts spoof.

Booth was given the leading role of a hopeless, Robitussin-addicted loser named Clarence Mumford who has long held the desire to become a ninja. His parents hate the idea and his cheating girlfriend Shotsi couldn’t care less. Mumford first goes to martial arts guru Dr. Death (played by Hicks wearing his best pair of Cobra sunglasses and a wisp of pubic facial hair), who proceeds to fracture his right arm and mock him mercilessly. One night Clarence has a vision – which isn’t Robitussin-induced – of the karate guru Master (also Hicks) who tells young Mumford to travel to Korea (represented by a park in Austin, Texas) so he can train him in the art of the ninja.

After a fight training montage and some of the Master’s deranged fortune cookie philosophy Clarence returns to America ready to kick ass. He finds Dr. Death in bed with Shotsi and a ten-minute battle royale ensues that takes Clarence and the evil Death from street corners to rooftops and back to Shotsi’s for a showdown that features the best use of a bicycle as a killing implement my eyes have ever witnessed.

No on-set audio was recorded; all of the voices were dubbed in later by Hicks, Booth, and Johndrow, even the female parts (tee hee). Hicks also wrote or co-wrote with Booth and Johndrow the entire soundtrack. How I wish the original recording sessions would surface one of these days. The songs of Ninja Bachelor Party achieve a sort of epic tranquility, and the more aggressive tracks are more laid back than typical action movie musical accompaniment.

Shot on videotape over the course of a decade on a budget of approximately $5,000 (accounts vary), Ninja Bachelor Party is thirty minutes of unfiltered lunacy stuffed with a metal pole into a boilerplate plot straight of The Karate Kid. It features insane, quotable dialogue laced with non sequiturs and some imaginative physical comedy (during the climatic fight Clarence and Dr. Death fall into a swimming pool and take a break from the battle by jumping into drying machines). The most important to remember is that it was birthed into existence by the power of pure love for everything the short film contains, and as Hicks’ wizened Master says in the final scene, “Love is all there is.”

Hicks and Booth had begun to plot a sequel shortly after the original became a cult hit in video stores and on college campuses all across Austin. Unfortunately their plans were brought to a screeching halt by Hicks’ passing. We may have been deprived of future adventures with Clarence Mumford the cough syrup-chugging ninja warrior and his beatific guru, but the rowdy and audacious Ninja Bachelor Party remains a genre-riffing head trip that few amateur comedy filmmakers could ever hope to top.

Ninja Bachelor Party has never received a commercial release though a mock trailer for the short was included as a bonus feature on the Blu-ray release of the amazing 2010 documentary American: The Bill Hicks Story, which you can buy HERE; I ordered it yesterday myself.

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