Sam Kinison

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Sam Kinison
Sam Kinison & Rodney Dangerfield.jpg
Kinison (left) with Rodney Dangerfield
Birth nameSamuel Burl Kinison
Born(1953-12-08)December 8, 1953
Yakima, Washington, U.S.
DiedApril 10, 1992(1992-04-10) (aged 38)
Needles, California, U.S.
Resting placeMemorial Park Cemetery, Tulsa, Oklahoma, U.S.
Years active1978–1992
GenresBlack comedy, satire, observational comedy
Subject(s)Human sexuality, current events, American politics, religion
Patricia Adkins
(m. 1975; div. 1980)

Terry Jean Marze
(m. 1981; div. 1989)

Malika Marie Souiri (m. 1992)

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 characterized by an intense style, similar to charismatic preachers, and punctuated by his distinct scream.

Early life[edit]

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.[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]

Kinison 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, John Farneti,[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 Bill 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 1984.[7] 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."[8] 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."[9]

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 the personalized license plate on his 1986 Corvette[10] 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. However, success in films eluded Kinison, partially due to his substance abuse issues. He was considered for the lead role in Beetlejuice, as well as Carl Hefler in Burglar and the Ghost of Christmas Past in Scrooged. Kinison's film career took a fatal hit while filming Atuk, based on Mordecai Richler's novel The Incomparable Atuk. Kinison clashed with producer Charles Roven, hadn't read the script before filming began, and threatened to walk through the film and do no publicity. The studio shut down production after one day and sued Kinison for breach of contract.

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.[11]

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.

Kinison in the 1980s

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.[12]

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.[13]

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."

Personal life[edit]

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 the same day, while Kinison was asleep in the house.[14] The bodyguard stated that the sex was consensual; the jury deadlocked in the subsequent trial, and the charges were later dropped.[15][16]

On April 4, 1992, six days before his death, Kinison married Souiri at the Candlelight Chapel in Las Vegas.[2] 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.[17]

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.[18][19]

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.[20] 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.[21]


On Friday, April 10, 1992, Kinison was driving his white 1989 Pontiac 20th Anniversary Turbo Trans Am[22][circular reference] and 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.[23][24] 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.[17]

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.[1]

His brother and the others begged him to lie down and he died 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."[25] 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 dislocation in the cervical spine, a torn aorta, and torn blood vessels in his abdominal cavity, which caused his death within minutes of the collision.[26][27] 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.[28]

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.[29]

Kinison's body was buried in a family grave plot at Memorial Park Cemetery in Tulsa, Oklahoma. His gravestone is inscribed with the unattributed quote: "In another time and place he would have been called prophet."[30]


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.[31]

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."[32]

On May 23, 1993, FOX aired a special, A Tribute to Sam Kinison.[33] The special contained archival footage of Kinison and stand-up comedy performances by comedians including Robin Williams, Rodney Dangerfield, and Jim Carrey.[34][35]

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 Delsohn.[12][36][37]

An episode of In Living Color was dedicated in Kinison's memory. In its first season, cast member Kelly Coffield had played female versions of Kinison and Andrew "Dice" Clay. In the third season, Kinison guest-starred as himself, with Coffield reprising her "Samantha Kinison" character as his wife. The two celebrate their anniversary with TV dinners and tequila, berate next-door neighbor Joan Rivers, and yell at their infant son (also played by Kinison), who screams back that he wished he had never been born.

On December 19, 2017, Spike aired a documentary titled I Am Sam Kinison.





Other appearances and music videos[edit]

  • Live in a Rusted Out Garage concert video, Neil Young (1986) (Extended Cameo)
  • "Wild Wild Life" Talking Heads (cameo 1986)
  • Breaking the Rules (1987)
  • "Wild Thing" music video, Sam Kinison (1988)
  • "Bad Medicine" music video, Bon Jovi (1988) (Cameo)
  • "Under My Thumb" music video, Sam Kinison (1989)
  • "Kickstart My Heart" music video, Mötley Crüe (1989) (Cameo)
  • "Mississippi Queen" music video, Sam Kinison (1990)
  • "Heartbeat" music video, D'Priest (1990) (Cameo)
  • "What Do I Have To Do" music video, Kylie Minogue (1991) (Voice Over)
  • Family Entertainment Hour (1991)
  • Unleashed (2006)


  1. ^ a b c d "Sam Kinison, Comedian (1953–1992)". A+E Networks. Retrieved February 27, 2015.
  2. ^ a b Luciano, Phil (April 10, 2012). "Comedian called this 'home'". Peoria Journal Star. p. B1. Retrieved April 10, 2012.
  3. ^ a b c d e Jones, Dylan (April 20, 2012). "Icon: Sam Kinison". GQ. Retrieved January 12, 2018.
  4. ^ "Leader of the Banned". December 8, 1953. Retrieved May 19, 2014.
  5. ^ "Recovery Comedy is proud to present Andy Huggins". Recovery Comedy. Retrieved May 19, 2014.
  6. ^ "Recovery Comedy is proud to present Jimmy Pineapple". Recovery Comedy. Retrieved May 19, 2014.
  7. ^ "Kinison: The Scream Continues (2016)". IMDb. Retrieved November 12, 2016.
  8. ^ Holden, Stephen (August 2, 1985). "Nine Comedians Appear On Dangerfield Special". The New York Times. Retrieved February 27, 2015.
  9. ^ "Sam Kinison First Appearance on Letterman". YouTube. Retrieved May 19, 2014.
  10. ^
  11. ^ Sam Kinison, Biography Channel, December 28, 2008.
  12. ^ a b Fleming, Michael (November 17, 2008). "'Brother Sam' set for HBO". Variety. Retrieved January 22, 2018.
  13. ^ Harris, Bill. "A Chat with Bill Kinison". January 13, 2009.
  14. ^ "Sam Kinison's Girlfriend Claims That While the Comic Slept Off a Hard Night, She Was Being Raped by His Bodyguard". People. July 9, 1990. Retrieved May 19, 2014.
  15. ^ "Jury Deadlocks in Kinison Bodyguard's Rape Trial". Los Angeles Times. October 26, 1990.
  16. ^ "Charges Dropped Against Kinison's Former Bodyguard". Associated Press. February 8, 1991. Retrieved May 19, 2014.
  17. ^ a b Wallace, Amy (April 12, 1992). "Friends Shocked by Violent Death of Mellower Kinison". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 26, 2013.
  18. ^ "Kinison Widow Sues Brother-in-Law Over Book". San Francisco Chronicle. April 7, 1995. Retrieved May 19, 2014.
  19. ^ "Sam Kinison's Widow Cries Fraud". TMZ. June 23, 2009. Retrieved January 12, 2018.
  20. ^ "Sam Kinison's secret love child: DNA test allegedly prove a friend's daughter was fathered by the late comic". Daily Mail. February 18, 2011.
  21. ^ "Kinison fathered lovechild, pal says | Celebrities | Entertainment". Toronto Sun. February 19, 2011. Archived from the original on February 24, 2011. Retrieved May 19, 2014.
  22. ^ Pontiac Firebird (third generation)#1989
  23. ^ Lambert, Bruce (April 12, 1992). "Sam Kinison, 38, Comedian, Dies; Wife Injured in Head-On Collision". The New York Times. Retrieved August 26, 2013.
  24. ^ "Teen in Crash Used Alcohol, CHP Says". Los Angeles Times. April 14, 1992. Retrieved August 26, 2013.
  25. ^ "THE STRANGE DEATH OF SAM KINISON". Paul Luvera Journal. Retrieved December 31, 2017.
  26. ^ "Sam Kinison Autopsy Report" (PDF). Retrieved August 26, 2013.
  27. ^ "Tranquilizers, Cocaine Found in Kinison's System". Los Angeles Times. Associated Press. May 29, 1992. Retrieved August 26, 2013.
  28. ^ Carroll, Larry. Sam Kinison: Why Did We Laugh?. 1998. Pacific Sundog Productions, Inc.
  29. ^ "Kinison album, concert vid planned". Variety. June 29, 1993. Retrieved May 19, 2014.
  30. ^ "Sam Kinison". Retrieved May 19, 2014.
  31. ^ "George Carlin - Jammin' In New York Part1". Retrieved May 31, 2017.
  32. ^ Scott, Gloria (November 11, 2008). "Sam Kinison". Digital Journal. Retrieved February 27, 2015.
  33. ^ 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.
  34. ^ A Tribute to Sam Kinison, from IMDb. Retrieved October 16, 2012.
  35. ^ "A Tribute to Sam Kinison (Part 1 of 5)". YouTube. Retrieved May 19, 2014.
  36. ^ Sneider, Jeff (November 17, 2010). "HBO's Sam Kinison Biopic Now Heading for the Big Screen". TheWrap. Retrieved January 22, 2018.
  37. ^ Lesnick, Silas (August 5, 2013). "Josh Gad to Headline Kinison". Retrieved January 12, 2018.

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