Samuel "Sam" Burl Kinison (December 8, 1953 – April 10, 1992) was an American stand-up comedian. He was famous for his raunchy humor and wild, colorful outfits. A former revival-style preacher, his standup routines were most often characterized by intense, angry ranting punctuated by a trademark primal scream.
Kinison was born in Peoria,Illinois, and originally became a preacher, which shouldn't be a surprise to most fans as his routines always border on fire and brimstone style screaming. He was forced to leave preaching when he divorced his wife, at which time he took up comedy. Shortly before his death he took to the pulpit one last time.
Widely considered to be Kinison's breakthrough performance would be his November 14, 1985 appearance on Late Night with David Letterman. David Letterman's introduction of Kinison would prove to be prescient: "Brace yourselves. I'm not kidding. Sam Kinison."
Kinison might be considered a "rock and roll comedian" since he occasionally was accompanied by a touring band, as well as having a prodigious appetite for drugs and alcohol. In 1988, he had a hit song with his novelty version of the Troggs' "Wild Thing." The video for his version of "Wild Thing" played like a who's who of rock artists, from bad boy Billy Idol, and rock guitar god Steve Vai, to guitar god Frank Zappa's son Dweezil Zappa, and a raunchy "roll on the mat" dance with Jessica Hahn. Sam hammered out some licks on a custom Stratocaster with an airbrush picture of his face frozen in his famous scream. One of his albums featured four songs performed by him and his band, and during one notable The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson performance, he delivered what began as a beautifully rendered version of Elvis Presley's "Are You Lonesome Tonight," but which descended into angry ranting during the spoken breakdown.
Some of Kinison's most spontaneous moments came during his frequent appearances on Howard Stern's radio show. He made an angry phone call on-air to Bobcat Goldthwait. He embarrassed comedienne Judy Tenuta to the point of driving her off the show, as he sat in with Penn Jillette, Chuck McCann, and Jack Riley. His most notorious stunt resulted in a highly entertaining on-air feud with Stern: he made an on-air promise to bring to the show members of the rock-n-roll band Bon Jovi, with whom Stern was feuding, but they never showed up. It turned out he had never had the intention of bringing them to the show. Stern's reaction was swift and vindictive, bringing about the eventual apology of Kinison, but not before one of the show's funniest moments in which comedian Gilbert Gottfried and Stern both savaged an emotionally charged phone call Stern had with Kinison, during which both stars used the words "man" and "dude" toward one another so often that Gottfried and Stern went into stitches on hearing the playback. Stern and Kinison eventually made up, and paired on Stern's pay-per-view special, U.S. Open Sores.
Even as Kinison sometimes seemed a romantic at heart, his routines mostly expressed a dim view of love, possibly as a result of a string of failed relationships, but more plausibly because of the kind of women he attracted with his wit, charm, big heart and large, loose wallet. He was known as an extraordinary tipper, often tipping 100% of the check.
He was working to get himself clean and sober in the months immediately before his death and married his girlfriend Malika Souiri in 1992. But just six days after the wedding, he was killed when his car was struck by a drunk driver on a two lane highway in the Mojave Desert near Needles, California.
It is said that just before his death Kinison wandered from the car and was heard talking to himself. He is said to have said "I'm not ready." followed by a pause then saying a resigned "Alright."
Ironically, Kinison had often belittled the dangers of drunken driving in his comedic skits with statements like:
"You're just trying to get home, right?"
"Yeah…give me a bus pass…"
"It's the only way to get the goddamn car back to the house!"
An end to world hunger.
Kinison talked about the people that go over to Ethiopia and film commercials to get you to send money to help feed the kids; meanwhile the filming crew is five feet away and maybe they could give the kids a sandwich. He claimed that if you really want to help starving Ethiopian kids, then stop sending your money. Instead, send some U-Haul trucks to take the people where the food is. He went on to explain to the Ethiopians that they can't plant food in sand, and in a hundred years it will still be sand. He would end the routine by screaming "We have deserts in America, we just don't live in them, assholes!"
Bringing forth liquor from the barren land
Kinison also had a reputation for coming through to keep the party going. Once, after two shows and the following party, all his hotel mini bars had run dry, so he went down to the main bar but was told that after legal serving hours, the bar was locked and the hotel manager didn't even have the key. So, Sam found a phone book and called a local limousine service. He asked "All your limos have stocked bars, right?" "Well, yes,” the limo service answered. So Sam ordered a fleet of limousines to restock the party.
He often claimed "I'm just trying to help" and would offer the audience suggestions for stronger relationships and better sex. One of his more notorious comic routines included the suggestion that while performing cunnilingus one ought to lick the letters of the alphabet. He even went so far as to suggest amyl nitrite by the bed side, in one routine.