To “Hell-A” and Back

To “Hell-A” and Back10525796_536817413117864_3893776682154615960_n

Following Dwight’s departure, initialy Bill focused entirely on developing the band he had formed with friend Kevin Booth, Stress, further building upon what would become a long-time partnership with creative kindred spirit Booth. Despite his initial demoralisation about Dwight’s departure however, Bill soon garnered the courage to strike out on his own on the local comedy circuit and began performing solo stand up comedy. In Bill’s senior year at Stratford High School, his parents moved to Little Rock, Arkansas leaving him alone at the family home in Houston, and in turn he began to perform at the Comedy Workshop most nights of the week.


Shortly following his graduation from high school in 1980, Bill decided to move to Los Angeles, with the aim of furthering his creative horizons. L A provided the opportunity to work alongside up and coming comics such as Jay Leno and Jerry Seinfeld, and Bill soon became a regular performer at the Comedy Store in Hollywood.






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Although Bill’s time in L A provided him with valuable experience as a performer, and taught him a lot about how to survive on his own, he found it difficult to relate to L A as a city, and found himself homesick for Houston. After two years there, in 1982 he returned to Houston and formed the company Absolute Creative Entertainment (ACE) alongside Kevin Booth (which would some time later become Sacred Cow Productions), and began gigging tirelessly, gradually building a loyal following of fans.


By 1983, frustrated that his career was not moving as quickly as he would like, Bill turned to drugs, and the angrier more unrestrained side to his personality began to manifest on stage. Although this had its downside in terms of the argumentative dynamic which it often lead to between him and his audiences (on one occasion he had his leg broken by a disgruntled Scotsman in a kilt), taking drugs also reflected a wider component of his personal development, and his life-term goal of becoming spiritually enlightened. As he and Booth began to study meditation, astrology and other spiritual topics, and experimenting with substances such as magic mushrooms and meth amphetamine, his spiritual and metaphysical interests began to become incorporated as recurring themes in his act.






Becoming one of the Houston Outlaw Comics alongside peers such as Jimmy Pineapple, and Ron Shock in the 1980’s, solidified a sense of comedic kinship and brotherhood and further fueled his sense of duty to bring the “message” of good comedy to wider and wider audiences. However, given that alcohol and drugs was already part of the surrounding culture of the Outlaw Comics, Bill’s association with them heralded a period of serious alcohol addiction which would present him with one of the biggest challenges of his life.  As his addiction grew, and his behaviour on stage became more and more unruly, Bill’s reputation for being drunk and challenging on stage began to proceed him, and he soon found himself being banned from appearing in certain clubs, and being booked less by club-owners.








Top left photo:  Used with kind permission of David Johndrow
Middle right photo:  @Rykopress/Graham Haber
Bottom left photo:  Used with kind permission of Bill Leissner

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