The Public Archive


There is a letter in the public archive which Groucho Marx wrote to Warner Brothers in response to a legal challenge made by Warner Brothers to halt the film A Night In Casablanca ostensibly because of fear that the names would confuse the public.

Dear Warner Bros.,

Apparently there is more than one way of conquering a city and holding it as your own. For example, up to the time that we contemplated making this picture, I had no idea that the city of Casablanca belonged exclusively to Warner Brothers.

The letter is amazing. I thought about Canadian scientists or just ordinary awake citizens (extraordinary nowadays) writing to Prime Minister Stephen Harper about the legacy of shame and intimidation brought to the present by his extremely dirty work including de-funding the Experimental Lakes Program and ending the long form census, bringing a halt to evidence based science because it interferes with business interests – like ones which might be restricted because they pollute, you know?

Perhaps making people laugh is a reliable way to get them to do the right thing. I don’t know for sure but smarter people than me (everyone basically), arrived at this conclusion long ago. Then again maybe it’s just a way to keep your dignity in the face of severe bullshit, maybe both. I admired the fact that in Groucho’s school the way to fight the madness of autocracy is to demonstrate notions that are equally insane.

You claim that you own Casablanca and that no one else can use that name without permission. What about “Warner Brothers”? Do you own that too? You probably have the right to use the name Warner, but what about the name Brothers? Professionally, we were brothers long before you were.

Read the original letter here

Unfortunately when I dug a little deeper I discovered this hilarious letter was not actually based on any real threat from Warner Brothers. It was just a nicely hand drawn story by the man with a paint-on mustache. But dammit I still hate Stephen Harper so I found myself looking up more truth speakers and censorship and landed unsurprisingly on Bill Hicks.

Viewable on the public Archive is last video interview he gave before dying at 32 of pancreatic cancer. He had just done his last appearance on the David Letterman show but was censored because of his pro life joke. He noticed later that there was a pro life advertisement on the episode and concluded that the two were linked.

He was told it was CBS that removed his routine because it didn’t meet their standards it was in fact David Letterman himself who made the judgement. Life is complicated, even my hatred of Harper could be changed if he simply moved to Jupiter. But here’s the thing – fifteen years later, David Letterman invited Hick’s mother to attend the show while he aired the unedited original footage of his last appearance.

The actual Letterman performance 15 years later

As Bill Hicks followed his muse he arrived in a place where to make comedy meant telling the truth about what’s going on, unfiltered, accurate, insightful but it meant some hostility and rejection from the status quo…and then he got an incurable illness.

Bill Hicks last interview from the Public Archive site







  1. Thanks for this Bob, we too have been revisiting Bill Hicks, funny and prescient his comments still resonate perfectly. I sat up with my daughter who is almost 14 watching some of his material and was reminded of how bloody brilliant he was. There is also a documentary on him available on Documentary Addicts, Outlaw Comic – The Censoring of Bill Hicks.


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