William Melvin "Bill" Hicks was an American stand-up comedian, social critic, satirist and musician. His material, encompassing a wide range of social issues including religion, politics, and philosophy, was controversial, and often steeped in dark comedy. He criticized consumerism, superficiality, mediocrity, and banality within the media and popular culture, which he characterized as oppressive tools of the ruling class that "keep people stupid and apathetic". At the age of 16, while still in high school, he began performing at the Comedy Workshop in Houston, Texas. During the 1980s, he toured the United States extensively and made a number of high-profile television appearances; but it was in the UK that he amassed a significant fan base, filling large venues during his 1991 tour. He also achieved a modicum of recognition as a guitarist and songwriter. Hicks died of pancreatic cancer on February 26, 1994 in Little Rock, Arkansas, at the age of 32. In subsequent years – in particular after a series of posthumous album releases – his body of work gained a significant measure of acclaim in creative circles, and he developed a substantial "cult" following. In 2007 he was voted the fourth greatest stand-up comic on Channel 4's list of the UK's 100 Greatest Stand-Ups, and he maintained that ranking on the 2010 list.