Samuel Burl Kinison (/ˈkɪnɪsən/; December 8, 1953 – April 10, 1992) was an American stand-up comedian and actor. A former Pentecostal preacher, he performed stand-up routines that were most often characterized by an intense style, similar to charismatic preachers, and punctuated by his distinct scream.
Kinison (left) with Rodney Dangerfield
|Birth name||Samuel Burl Kinison|
|Born||December 8, 1953|
Yakima, Washington, U.S.
|Died||April 10, 1992 (aged 38)|
Needles, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Memorial Park Cemetery, Tulsa, Oklahoma, U.S.|
|Genres||Black comedy, satire, observational comedy|
|Subject(s)||Human sexuality, current events, American politics, religion|
(m. 1975; div. 1980)
Terry Jean Marze
(m. 1981; div. 1989)
Malika Marie Souiri (m. 1992)
Samuel Burl Kinison was born in Yakima, Washington on December 8, 1953, the son of Marie Florence (née Morrow) and Samuel Earl Kinison, a Pentecostal preacher. The family moved to East Peoria, Illinois when Kinison was three months old. 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. Sam later attended East Peoria Community High School in East Peoria.
Kinison and his brothers emulated their father by becoming Pentecostal preachers. Kinison attended Pinecrest Bible Training Center in Salisbury Center, New York. 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. 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, John Farneti, and Jimmy Pineapple. 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." 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 Bill moved to Los Angeles to help manage his career.
His big break came on HBO's Rodney Dangerfield's Ninth Annual Young Comedians Special in the summer of 1984. 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." 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."
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. On several videos of his stand-up routines, a shot of his personalized license plate reveals the words "EX REV."
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. It featured a cameo by Rodney Dangerfield and Jon Bon Jovi, and starred many well-known rock musicians of the time, including Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith, Jonathan Cain and Deen Castronovo of Bad English, Richie Sambora and Alec John Such of Bon Jovi, Slash and Steven Adler of Guns N' Roses, Tommy Lee of Mötley Crüe, C.C. DeVille of Poison, Rudy Sarzo of Quiet Riot, Billy Idol, and Ratt, as well as 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 If he hadn't been born (a sendup of It's a Wonderful Life). He was also considered for the lead role of Al Bundy during preproduction of the show.
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 comedian 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 appear, 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 reconciled and paired on Stern's pay-per-view special, U.S. Open Sores. Stern would later purchase the movie rights to Kinison's biography, written by Kinison's brother, at one point (2008) reporting that HBO would make Brother Sam with Kinison being played by Dan Fogler.
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 (30 cm) 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.
Kinison's legendary scream can be heard at the beginning of Anthrax's 1987 song, "I'm the Man" and one of his comedy punch-lines ("Dick in your mouth all day!"), can be heard multiple times in Run–D.M.C.'s 1988 single, "Beats to the Rhyme."
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 she was raped by a man Kinison had hired as a bodyguard that same day, while Kinison was asleep in the house. The bodyguard stated that the sex was consensual; the jury deadlocked in the subsequent trial and the charges were later dropped.
On April 4, 1992, six days before his death, Kinison married Souiri at the Candlelight Chapel in Las Vegas. They honeymooned in Hawaii for five days before returning home to Los Angeles on April 10 to prepare for a show that night at the Riverside Resort Hotel and Casino in Laughlin, Nevada.
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.
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. 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 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.
On Friday, April 10, 1992, Kinison died at the age of 38 after his white 1989 Pontiac 20th Anniversary Turbo Trans Am was struck head-on on U.S. Route 95, 4 miles (6.4 km) north of Interstate 40 and around 15 miles (24 km) northwest of Needles, California, by a pickup truck driven by 17-year-old Troy Pierson, who had been drinking alcohol. 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.
Kinison was found lying between the seats of his car at the scene of the collision. He was not killed instantly, according to his brother.
His brother and the others begged him to lie down and he did with his best friend, Carl LaBove, who had been in the following van, holding his head in his hands. Initially, Kinison appeared to have suffered no serious injuries, but within minutes he suddenly said to no one in particular, "I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die." LaBove later said, "it was as if he was having a conversation, talking to someone else, some unseen person." Then there was a pause as if Kinison was listening to the other person speak. Then he asked "But why?" and after another pause LaBove heard him clearly say: "Okay, okay, okay.’ LaBove said, "The last ‘okay’ was so soft and at peace ... Whatever voice was talking to him gave him the right answer and he just relaxed with it. He said it so sweet, like he was talking to someone he loved." Kinison then lost consciousness. Efforts to resuscitate him failed. Kinison died at the scene from internal injuries. 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. Malika Souiri, Kinison's wife, whom he had married six days earlier, was rendered unconscious by the collision, but survived the accident with a mild concussion.
Pierson pled 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.
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."
Comedian George Carlin's eighth HBO stand-up comedy special, Jammin' in New York, was dedicated to Kinison's memory. At the beginning of the broadcast, the words "this show is for SAM" appeared on the screen.
After his death, Kinison was fondly remembered by his friends and costars. Ozzy Osbourne said, "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."
On May 23, 1993, FOX aired a special, A Tribute to Sam Kinison. The special contained archival footage of Kinison and stand-up comedy performances by comedians including Robin Williams, Rodney Dangerfield, and Jim Carrey.
Between 2008 and 2013, there were some press releases regarding a possible dramatic film to be based on the memoir Brother Sam: The Short, Spectacular Life of Sam Kinison, by Kinison's brother Bill Kinison and Steve Delson.
An episode of In Living Color was dedicated in Kinison's memory.
On December 19, 2017, Spike aired a documentary entitled I Am Sam Kinison.