'It's January 2009 and David Letterman is making a public apology. The American chat show king is talking about an error of judgment he made years earlier, a mistake, he says, born out of his own feelings of insecurity. He hasn't been caught with his pants down.
'No, the person he's making an apology to is Mary Hicks, the mother of the American stand-up comedian Bill Hicks, whose final performance was controversially cut from the Letterman show, making Hicks one of the first comedy acts to be fully censored on the CBS network. It's a decision that ultimately denied the American public what would turn out to be their final opportunity to see Hicks on mainstream television. Less than six months later, on 26 February 1994, Hicks died from pancreatic cancer at the criminally young age of 32.
'To be fair to Letterman, no one outside Hicks's immediate family knew he was sick. But considering the jokes had been pre-approved several times by the network's standards and practices committee, the decision to drop the routine was devastating for the comedian, who knew what he was facing and just wanted his material to have another shot at penetrating the American mainstream that had ignored him for much of his career. "It was a hard time for all of us. I just need you to know that," Mrs Hicks later told Letterman sternly on that January 2009 show, stunning him into silence. After screening the routine - in which a painfully thin and bearded Hicks takes hilarious sideswipes at the pro-life lobby, mediocre celebrities and peculiarities of religious iconography - Letterman acknowledged how timeless the material seemed and sheepishly wondered: "What was the matter with me?"' (Scotsman article).