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Sam Kinison

Sam Kinison
Kinison (left) with Rodney Dangerfield
Birth name Samuel Burl Kinison
Born (1953-12-08)December 8, 1953
Yakima, Washington, U.S.
Died April 10, 1992(1992-04-10) (aged 38)
Needles, California, U.S.
Years active 1978–1992
Genres Black comedy, satire, observational comedy
Subject(s) Human sexuality, current events, American politics, religion
Spouse Patricia Adkins (m. 1975; div. 1980)
Terry Marze (m. 1981; div. 1989)
Malika Kinison (m. 1992; his death 1992)
Children 1

Samuel Burl "Sam" Kinison (December 8, 1953 – April 10, 1992) was an American stand-up comedian and actor. He was known for his intense, harsh and politically incorrect humor. A former Pentecostal preacher, he performed stand-up routines that were most often characterized by an intense style, similar to enthusiastic preachers, punctuated by his trademark scream.


  • Early life 1
  • Career 2
  • Personal life 3
  • Death 4
  • Legacy 5
  • Discography 6
  • Filmography 7
    • Film 7.1
    • Television 7.2
    • Other 7.3
  • References 8
  • External links 9

Early life

Kinison was born in Yakima, Washington, the son of Marie Florence (née Morrow) and Samuel Earl Kinison, a Pentecostal preacher.[1] The family moved to East Peoria, Illinois when Kinison was three months old.[2] His father pastored several churches around the country, receiving little income. Kinison had two older brothers, Richard and Bill, and a younger brother, Kevin. His parents divorced when he was 11 and his brother Bill went to live with his father while Sam stayed with the rest of his family against his protestations. Bill described this as the root of much of Sam's anger.[3]

Sam later attended East Peoria Community High School in East Peoria.[1] He and his brothers emulated their father by becoming Pentecostal preachers. Kinison attended Pinecrest Bible Training Center in Salisbury Center, New York.[4] His mother married another preacher and moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where Kinison lived for a while. He preached from the age of 17 to 24 and recordings of his sermons reveal that he used a "fire and brimstone" style, punctuated with shouts similar to the ones he would later use in his stand-up routines. His brother Bill, however, noted that "ironically, he had no stage presence" and he was not very successful at making money from preaching.[3] After he and his first wife were divorced, he abandoned preaching and took up comedy as a profession.


Kinison began his career in Houston, Texas, where he performed in small clubs. He became a member of a comedic group at the Comedy Workshop known as the Texas Outlaw Comics, that also included Bill Hicks, Ron Shock, Riley Barber, Steve Epstein, Andy Huggins,[5] and Jimmy Pineapple.[3][6] Hicks cited Kinison as a major influence on his comedic style, noting that "He was the first guy I ever saw to go on stage and not in any way ask the audience to like him."[3] In 1980, Kinison moved to Los Angeles hoping to find work at The Comedy Store, but was first employed as a doorman. He soon developed a cocaine habit, quickly progressing to the freebase form, and struggled to make a foothold in the business until his brother moved to Los Angeles to help manage his career.[3]

His big break came on HBO's Rodney Dangerfield's Ninth Annual Young Comedians Special in the summer of 1985.[1] After noting the performance of Bob Nelson, reviewer Stephen Holden of The New York Times wrote, "the most interesting of the other eight comedians is the savagely misogynistic Sam Kinison. Mr. Kinison specializes in a grotesque animalist howl that might be described as the primal scream of the married man."[7] Later, during Kinison's appearance on Late Night with David Letterman in 1985, Letterman's introduction of Kinison warned his audience, "Brace yourselves. I'm not kidding. Please welcome Sam Kinison."[8]

Kinison played on his former role as a Bible-preaching evangelist, taking satirical and sacrilegious shots at the Bible, Christianity and famous Christian evangelist scandals of his day. Kinison's daring comedy helped shoot him to stardom.[1] On several videos of his stand-up routines, a shot of his personalized license plate reveals the words "EX REV."

Kinison made his film debut in Rodney Dangerfield's 1986 film Back to School, playing short-tempered Contemporary American History professor Dr. Terguson, who also happened to be a Vietnam veteran.

He was associated with the Los Angeles rock music scene and was occasionally accompanied by a touring band. He also gained a reputation as having a prodigious appetite for drugs and alcohol.[9]

In 1988, Kinison recorded a novelty version of The Troggs' "Wild Thing", which appeared on his album Have You Seen Me Lately? The video was a hit on MTV, as it featured cameos of Rodney Dangerfield, as well as many well-known rock musicians, including Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith, Ratt, Slash and Steven Adler of Guns N' Roses, Rick Marty of Poison (American band), Billy Idol, Steve Vai, Dweezil Zappa, Richie Sambora, Jon Bon Jovi and Tommy Lee, and a raunchy "roll on the mat" dance with Jessica Hahn. Also in 1988, Kinison appeared in the music video for the Bon Jovi single "Bad Medicine".

Kinison appeared in the episode "It's a Bundyful Life: Part 2" (1989) of Married... with Children, as Al Bundy's guardian angel, who shows him what life would be like without him born (a sendup of It's a Wonderful Life).

Also during 1989, he lent his voice to the song "The Kid Goes Wild" by the band Babylon A.D.; the song was heard (briefly) in the movie RoboCop 2, but not the portion featuring Kinison's voice. Kinison also appeared in the Mötley Crüe music video for their hit single "Kickstart My Heart".

During one notable Tonight Show performance, Kinison delivered what began as a straightforward version of Elvis Presley's "Are You Lonesome Tonight?", which descended into angry ranting during the spoken breakdown, and then segueing back into a straightforward sung ending.

Some of Kinison's most notable spontaneous moments came during his frequent appearances on The Howard Stern Show. He made an angry phone call on-air to Bobcat Goldthwait, and he embarrassed comedienne Judy Tenuta to the point of driving her off the show. His most notorious stunt resulted in an on-air feud with Stern. Kinison made an on-air promise to bring to the show members of the band Bon Jovi, with whom Stern was feuding, but they did not show up, nor did Kinison. Stern's reaction was swift and vindictive, and Kinison eventually apologized, but not before comedian Gilbert Gottfried and Stern ridiculed an emotionally charged phone call between Stern and Kinison, in which both stars used the words "man" and "dude" so often that the playback was used as a bit on the show.

Stern and Kinison eventually made up and paired on Stern's pay-per-view special, U.S. Open Sores. In the early 1990s, Stern, who purchased the movie rights to Kinison's biography, reported that HBO would make Brother Sam with Kinison being played by Dan Fogler.[10]

In 1991, Kinison starred in the Fox Network television show Charlie Hoover, in which he played the inner voice of the title character, appearing as a 12-inch tall man. The show lasted only seven episodes before being canceled.

In an interview with Sam's brother and manager Bill Kinison, Bill mentioned movie deals that were in development at the time of his death; one such deal was a movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger, and another with Rick Moranis.[11]

Kinison's legendary scream can be heard at the beginning of Anthrax's 1987 song, "I'm the Man;" and one of his edited comedy lines "Dick in your mouth all day,!" can be heard multiple times in Run-D.M.C.'s 1988 single, "Beats to the Rhyme."

Personal life

Kinison acquired much of his material from his difficult first two marriages, to Patricia Adkins (1975–1980) and Terry Marze (1981–1989). He began a relationship with dancer Malika Souiri toward the end of his marriage with Marze. In 1990, Souiri alleged was raped by a man Kinison hired as a bodyguard that same day, while Kinison was asleep in the house.[12] The bodyguard stated that the sex was consensual; the jury deadlocked in the subsequent trial and charges were later dropped.[13][14]

On April 4, 1992, six days before he died, Kinison married Souiri at the Candlelight Chapel in Las Vegas.[2] They then had a honeymoon in Hawaii for five days before returning home to LA on April 10 and preparing for a show that night at the Riverside Resort Hotel and Casino.[15]

Souiri sued Kinison's brother Bill in 1995 for allegedly defaming her in his book Brother Sam: The Short Spectacular Life of Sam Kinison, and then again in 2009 for allegedly forging Sam's will.[16][17]

In February 2011, the Toronto Sun reported that Kinison had fathered a child with the wife of his best friend and opening act, Carl LaBove, who had been paying child support for the girl for nearly 13 years.[18] LaBove filed legal papers claiming the girl was Kinison's, and DNA tests taken from Kinison's brother Bill show a 99.8% likelihood that Sam Kinison was the father of the unnamed woman, who was 21 at the time of the Toronto Sun story, and excluded LaBove as her father.[19]


On April 10, 1992, Kinison died at the age of 38 after his white 1989 Pontiac Trans Am was struck head-on on U.S. Route 95, 4 miles (6.4 km) north of Interstate 40 and around 15 miles northwest of Needles, California, by a pickup truck driven by 17-year-old Troy Pierson, who had been drinking alcohol.[20][21] The pickup truck crossed the center line of the roadway and went into Kinison's lane. At the time of the collision, Kinison was traveling to Laughlin, Nevada to perform at a sold-out show.[15]

Kinison's body was found lying between the seats of his car at the scene of the collision. He was not killed instantly; according to his brother, Kinison's final words were, "Why now? I don't want to die. Why?"[1] An autopsy found that he had suffered numerous traumatic injuries—including a dislocated neck, a torn aorta, and torn blood vessels in his abdominal cavity—which caused his death within minutes of the collision.[22][23] Malika Souiri, Kinison's wife, whom he had married merely six days prior, was rendered unconscious by the collision, but survived the accident with a mild concussion.[24]

Pierson later pleaded guilty to one count of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence. He was sentenced to one year of probation and 300 hours of community service, and his driver's license was suspended for two years.[25]

Kinison is interred with family members at the Memorial Park Cemetery in Tulsa, Oklahoma. His grave marker includes the unattributed quote: "In another time and place he would have been called prophet."[26]


Comedian Jammin' in New York, was dedicated to the memory of Kinison. At the beginning of the broadcast, the words "this show is for SAM" appeared on the screen.[27]

After his death, Kinison was fondly remembered by his friends and costars. Said Ozzy Osbourne, "Apparently when Sam had the accident, I heard he got out of the car and look up to the heavens and said, 'I don't want to die,' and then just said, 'Oh, okay,' and laid down and died. It sounds crazy and will probably offend a lot of my fans, but I believe there's a higher power. Some people may think Sam Kinison's in one place, but I know where he is. He's upstairs; he's next to God."[28]

On May 23, 1993, FOX aired a special entitled A Tribute to Sam Kinison.[29] The special contained archival footage of Kinison and stand-up comedy performances by comedians including Robin Williams, Rodney Dangerfield, and Jim Carrey.[30][31]

As of December 2013, a biographical film, currently titled Kinison, is in pre-production. Larry Charles will direct Rich Wilkes' screenplay with Josh Gad as Kinison.[32]

An episode of In Living Color was dedicated in Kinison's memory.






  • Breaking the Rules (1987)
  • "Wild Thing" music video, Sam Kinison (1988)
  • "Bad Medicine" music video, Bon Jovi (1988)
  • "Kickstart My Heart" music video, Mötley Crüe (1989)
  • Family Entertainment Hour (1991)
  • Unleashed (2006)


  1. ^ a b c d e "Sam Kinison, Comedian (1953–1992)".  
  2. ^ a b Luciano, Phil (2012-04-10). "'"Comedian called this 'home.  
  3. ^ a b c d e "Icon: Sam Kinison". Retrieved December 13, 2013. 
  4. ^ "Leader of the Banned". 1953-12-08. Retrieved 2014-05-19. 
  5. ^ "Clean and Sober Comedy!". Recovery Comedy. Retrieved 2014-05-19. 
  6. ^ "Clean and Sober Comedy!". Recovery Comedy. Retrieved 2014-05-19. 
  7. ^  
  8. ^ "Sam Kinison First Appearance on Letterman". YouTube. Retrieved 2014-05-19. 
  9. ^ Sam Kinison, television biography from the Biography Channel, 2008-12-28
  10. ^ Fleming, Michael. "'Brother Sam' set for HBO". Variety. November 17, 2008
  11. ^ Harris, Bill. "A Chat with Bill Kinison". January 13, 2009.
  12. ^ "Sam Kinison's Girlfriend Claims That While the Comic Slept Off a Hard Night, She Was Being Raped by His Bodyguard". 1990-07-09. Retrieved 2014-05-19. 
  13. ^ "Jury Deadlocks in Kinison Bodyguard's Rape Trial". Los Angeles Times. October 26, 1990. 
  14. ^ "Charges Dropped Against Kinison's Former Bodyguard". 1991-02-08. Retrieved 2014-05-19. 
  15. ^ a b Amy Wallace (April 12, 1992). "Friends Shocked by Violent Death of Mellower Kinison".  
  16. ^ "Kinison Widow Sues Brother-in-Law Over Book". SFGate. April 7, 1995. Retrieved May 19, 2014. 
  17. ^ "Sam Kinison's Widow Claims Forged Will". Retrieved December 13, 2013. 
  18. ^ Sam Kinison's secret love child
  19. ^ "Kinison fathered lovechild, pal says | Celebrities | Entertainment". Toronto Sun. Retrieved 2014-05-19. 
  20. ^ Bruce Lambert (April 12, 1992). "Sam Kinison, 38, Comedian, Dies; Wife Injured in Head-On Collision". The New York Times. Retrieved August 26, 2013. 
  21. ^ "Teen in Crash Used Alcohol, CHP Says".  
  22. ^ "Sam Kinison Autopsy Report" (PDF). Retrieved August 26, 2013. 
  23. ^ "Tranquilizers, Cocaine Found in Kinison's System".  
  24. ^ Carroll, Larry. Sam Kinison: Why Did We Laugh?. 1998. Pacific Sundog Productions, Inc.
  25. ^ "Kinison album, concert vid planned". Variety. June 29, 1993. Retrieved May 19, 2014. 
  26. ^ "Sam Kinison". Retrieved May 19, 2014. 
  27. ^ "YouTube". YouTube. Retrieved 2014-05-19. 
  28. ^ Gloria Scott (November 11, 2008). "Sam Kinison". Digital Journal. Retrieved February 27, 2015. 
  29. ^ Dennis McLellan, Carrying on the Teachings: Carl LaBove Worked a Lot With, and Learned a Lot From, Sam Kinison, Los Angeles Times (April 29, 1993). Retrieved October 16, 2012.
  30. ^ A Tribute to Sam Kinison, from IMDb. Retrieved October 16, 2012.
  31. ^ "A Tribute to Sam Kinison (Part 1 of 5)". YouTube. Retrieved May 19, 2014. 
  32. ^ "Josh Gad to Headline Kinison".  

External links

  • Official website
  • Sam Kinison at the Internet Movie Database
  • Sam Kinison at AllMovie
  • Interview with Bill Kinison
  • A Multimedia Tribute to the Life and Comedy of Sam Kinison
  • Clip featuring an example of Kinison's stand up routine
  • Sam Kinison at Find a Grave
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