Monday, August 24, 2020

Sam Kinison


"I don't worry about terrorism.  I was married for two years."
  --Sam Kinison

Samuel Burl Kinison was born in Yakima, Washington on December 8, 1953.  He was the third of four sons of a Pentecostal preacher, who often moved the family from one parish to another.

When Kinison was eleven, his parents divorced and his mother quickly remarried, this time to another preacher.  She moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where Kinison would stay with her for a short time.  But the brothers emulated their father, each one becoming a preacher as well.

Kinison started his studies at the Pinecrest Bible Training Center in New York.  By seventeen, he had his own pulpit, one he'd maintain for the next seven years.  He used a fire and brimstone approach to his sermons, which were often sprinkled with the same shouts and screams that would later define his stand-up routine.  He gave up the pulpit at 24, following his first divorce.

Rodney Dangerfield's Ninth Annual
Young Comedians Special
, 1985.
Having decided on stand-up comedy as his next career, Kinison moved to Houston in 1978, where he joined a comedy group called the Texas Outlaw Comics.  It was obvious to fellow members that Kinison's style was not run of the mill.  Friend and group member Bill Hicks said "He was the first guy I ever saw go on stage and not in any way ask the audience to like him."

Having tasted some initial success, Kinison moved to Los Angeles in 1980, intent on working at the Comedy Store.  The famed comedy club hired Kinison, but not in the role he'd expected.  He took a job as a doorman, seating customers for other more notable comics.  Depressed, Kinison began taking cocaine, a trademark that would also define his career.

It would be another five years before he'd get his next break, appearing on an HBO special hosted by Rodney Dangerfield.  The special put Kinison on the map, giving him the exposure he'd always wanted.  It led to several appearances on Late Night with David Letterman, the first of which you can view here.

Kinison's approach to humor was of the take-no-prisoners variety.  He was criticized for his satirical and sacrilegious take on the Bible while simultaneously being picketed for his jokes aimed at the gay community.  Much of his humor came from his by then two failed marriages.

Towards the end of his second marriage, Kinison began dating a dancer named Malika Souiri.  Defying every routine he'd ever given on stage, Kinison decided to give marriage one last shot.  The couple were married on April 4, 1992 at the Candlelight Chapel in Las Vegas.  They'd honeymoon in Hawaii, before flying home to tragedy.

Six days after they were married, Kinison and his bride were driving from Los Angeles to Laughlin, Nevada, where Sam was scheduled to perform at a sold-out show.  In the car behind them were Carl LaBove, Sam's best friend and opening act, as well as Sam's brother Bill, who had assumed the role of his business manager.

As the cars traveled down U.S. Route 9 near the town of Needles, California, a pickup truck crossed the center line and hit Kinison's 1989 Turbo Trans Am head on.  Kinison had not been wearing his seat belt and hit the windshield head on.

Rescuers on the scene found Kinison alive, stating to no one in particular "I don't want to die.  I don't want to die."  Carl LaBove later recalled that Kinison appeared to be listening to someone, to whom he asked "But why?"  He added that Kinison eventually accepted what the unheard voice was saying by replying "Okay.  Okay.  Okay."  He died on the scene from internal injuries.  Malika survived the accident but suffered a concussion.

He was buried in a family plot at Memorial Park Cemetery in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Inscription: In another time and place he would have been called prophet
Here's a clearer image taken from the web.


  • This blogger first became aware of Kinison via the 1986 Rodney Dangerfield film Back to School, in which he played Rodney's crazed American History professor.  You surely remember the scene, and you can relive it here.

  • Two years after Kinison's death, his brother released the biography Brother Sam: The Short Spectacular Life of Sam Kinison.  Howard Stern bought the movie rights to the book, but the film was never produced.  Pick up a copy from Amazon.

  • The driver of the pickup truck was seventeen-year-old Troy Pierson, who was, as you might expect, drunk at the time of the accident.  He pled guilty to one count of vehicular manslaughter and was sentenced to one year of probation and 300 hours of community service.

  • In 2011, Kinison's best friend and opening act Carl LaBove filed legal papers claiming Sam had fathered a child in 1989.  Both Kinison and LaBove had dated the mother at that time, with the latter paying child support beginning in 1998.  A DNA test was conducted, using Kinison's brother Bill.  It concluded with 99.8 percent certainty that Sam had fathered the child.

  • Kinison and Roseanne Barr were the original choices to play Al and Peg Bundy on Married With Children.  Although Barr never appeared on the series, Kinison eventually did, giving the holiday classic It's a Wonderful Life a comedic spin.  Watch a clip here.

  • Kinison headlined a 1991 sit-com called Charlie Hoover, which also starred Tim Matheson.  Kinison appeared as Hugh, the little voice in Matheson's head, guiding him through his daily decisions.  Get it?  Hugh.  It was mercifully short-lived, and as you'd expect, it aired on FOX.  You can watch the pilot episode here.

  • Wanna see the site of the crash?  Vlogger Jordan the Lion takes you there in this clip.  It comes in at the 11:00 mark.  Jordan talks too much.

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