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Sam Kinison

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Sam Kinison
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
Patricia Adkins
(m. 1975; div. 1980)
Terry Jean Marze
(m. 1981; div. 1989)
Malika Marie Souiri
(m. 1992)

Samuel Burl Kinison (/ˈkɪnɪsən/ KIN-iss-ən; 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 intense sudden tirades, punctuated with his distinctive scream, similar to charismatic preachers. Initially performing for free, Kinison became a regular fixture at The Comedy Store where he met and eventually befriended such comics as Robin Williams and Jim Carrey. Kinison's comedy was crass observational humor, especially towards women and dating, and his popularity grew quickly, earning him appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, Late Night with David Letterman and Saturday Night Live. At the peak of his career in early 1992, he was killed in a car crash, aged 38.

Kinison received a Grammy nomination in 1988 for the single "Wild Thing" from his Have You Seen Me Lately? album, and a posthumous win in 1994 for Best Spoken Comedy Album, Live from Hell.[1][2]

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.[3] The family moved to East Peoria, Illinois, when Kinison was three months old.[4] At the age of three years, Kinison was hit by a truck, which left him with brain damage.[5][6] 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 Kinison was 11 after which his brother Bill went to live with his father while Kinison stayed with the rest of the family, against his protests. Bill described this as the root of much of Sam's anger.[7] Kinison later attended East Peoria Community High School in East Peoria.[3]

Kinison and his brothers emulated their father by becoming Pentecostal preachers. Between 1968 and 1969, Kinison attended Pinecrest Bible Training Center, an interdenominational, unaccredited, three-year bible school located in Salisbury Center, New York.[8] 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.[7] After Kinison and his first wife were divorced, he abandoned preaching and took up comedy.[citation needed]


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 included Bill Hicks, Ron Shock, Riley Barber, Steve Epstein, Andy Huggins, John Farneti,[9] and Jimmy Pineapple.[7][10] 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."[7] 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 and alcohol addiction, quickly progressing to freebasing cocaine, and struggled to gain a foothold in the business until his brother Bill moved to Los Angeles to help manage his career.[7]

His big break came on HBO's Rodney Dangerfield's Ninth Annual Young Comedians Special in August 1985.[11] 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."[12] Kinison would later appear in Rodney Dangerfield's film Back to School in 1986.

In Kinison's debut television 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."[13] 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.[3] On several videos of his stand-up routines, a shot of the personalized license plate on his 1986 Corvette[14] reveals the words "EX REV". He was associated with the Los Angeles rock music scene and was occasionally accompanied by a touring band.[15]

Kinison with his mouth agape
Kinison in the 1980s

Howard Stern purchased the film 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.[16] In an interview with Sam's brother and manager Bill Kinison, Bill mentioned film deals that were in development at the time of his death; one such deal was a film with Arnold Schwarzenegger, and another with Rick Moranis.[17]

Personal life[edit]

In May 1988, his youngest brother Kevin shot himself at the age of 28, which devastated Sam.[18]

Kinison acquired much of his material from his 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.[19][20][21] In 1990, Souiri alleged she was raped by a man Kinison had hired as a bodyguard while Kinison was asleep in the house.[22] The bodyguard stated that the sex was consensual; the jury deadlocked in the subsequent trial, and the charges were later dropped.[23][24]

Kinison frequented rock shows and often hung out with musicians. In May 1991, Kinison got in a fight with Slash at a hotel after Slash missed a planned appearance at one of Kinison's shows. Slash stated that Kinison nearly "choked [him] to death" before Slash's bandmate Duff McKagan intervened. Slash and McKagan declined to press charges after the incident.[25]

On April 4, 1992, six days before his death, Kinison married Souiri at the Candlelight Chapel in Las Vegas.[4] 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.[26] 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.[27][28]

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.[29]


On April 10, 1992, Kinison was driving his Pontiac Turbo Trans Am[30] when it was struck head-on on Needles Highway (34°53′46″N 114°38′42″W / 34.896180°N 114.644944°W / 34.896180; -114.644944 (Sam Kinison (fatal vehicle accident))) northwest of Needles, California by a pickup truck driven by a young man named Troy Pierson.[31] Prior to the crash, Pierson had been drinking alcohol.[32][33] The pickup truck crossed the center line of the roadway while trying to pass another vehicle and moved into Kinison's lane.[32] Kinison and his wife were on their way to Laughlin, Nevada, to perform at a sold-out show at the Riverside Casino.[26]

After the crash, Kinison appeared stable, with only minor visible facial wounds.[26] He got out of his vehicle and sat down on the side of the road, where he soon died from internal injuries.[26] His head smashed the windshield, as he was not wearing his seat belt.[3] He was 38 years old. His wife got a concussion in the collision but later recovered after being taken directly to a hospital in Needles for treatment.[30] An autopsy found that Kinison sustained multiple traumatic injuries, including a dislocation in the cervical spine, a torn aorta, and torn blood vessels in his abdominal cavity, which resulted in his death within a few minutes of the crash.[34][35][36] Kinison reportedly said to no one in particular as his last words "why now?", then paused, asked "but why?", and after another pause, said "okay, okay, okay". A friend who was with him at the time later recalled, "Whatever voice was talking to him gave him the right answer and he just relaxed with it".[37] 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. Pierson also had his driver's license suspended for two years in connection with the collision.[38]

On April 15, 1992, at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Burbank, California, a funeral service was held.[39] Kinison's body was buried in a family grave plot at Memorial Park Cemetery in Tulsa, Oklahoma. His gravestone is inscribed, "In another time and place he would have been called prophet".[40]


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.[41]

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 looked 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.[42]

On May 23, 1993, FOX aired a special, A Tribute to Sam Kinison.[43] The special contained archival footage of Kinison and stand-up comedy performances by comedians including Robin Williams, Rodney Dangerfield, and Jim Carrey.[44][45]

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.[16][46][47]

Kinison's comedy was at times accused of containing misogyny and homophobia, according to a retrospective on Kinison's career in the Los Angeles Times.[48] For example, the group Queer Nation Nebraska demonstrated on a sidewalk in front of a Kinison show in Lincoln in February 1991, chanting "Anti-woman, anti-gay, Sam Kinison go away!"[49]

His Have You Seen Me Lately? album carried a disclaimer sticker stating "The Material On This Album Does Not Reflect The Views Or Opinions Of Warner Bros. Records." Employees at Warner Brothers requested that their bosses not release it due to the controversial material on Kinison's first album.[50]

In a 2016 article by John Hugar in New York, Hugar contended that the comedy of past comedians, including Kinison, was not positively embraced by younger generations, perhaps because their material has come to be viewed as anachronistically sexist and misogynistic with time. Hugar noted that a modern reevaluation was complicated by the possibility that Kinison could be considered as playing an intentionally shocking character rather than speaking as himself.[51]




List of singles, with selected chart positions
Title Year Peak chart positions Album
"Wild Thing" 1988 19 Have You Seen Me Lately?




Other appearances and music videos[edit]

  • Live in a Rusted Out Garage concert video, Neil Young (1986) (Extended Cameo)
  • Breaking the Rules (1987) (HBO Special)
  • 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)
  • The Kids Goes Wild music video, Babylon A.D. (1989) (Voice Over)
  • The Walk music video, Cherry St. (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) Sam Kinison Banned Live at Felt Forum NYC 1990

Further reading[edit]

  • Handelman, David (February 23, 1989). "The Devil and Sam Kinison". Rolling Stone. p. 1.


  1. ^ "Artist Sam Kinison". Grammy.com. Retrieved October 26, 2020.
  2. ^ "Sam Kinison". TV Guide. Retrieved October 26, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d "Sam Kinison, Comedian (1953–1992)". A+E Networks. Retrieved February 27, 2015.
  4. ^ a b Luciano, Phil (April 10, 2012). "Comedian called this 'home'". Peoria Journal Star. p. B1. Retrieved April 10, 2012.
  5. ^ "Sam Kinison - Movies, Wild Thing & Wife". biography.com. April 2, 2014. Retrieved September 2, 2021.
  6. ^ "SAM KINISON'S SAD SCREAM BROTHER'S TALE GOES BEYOND THE WILD PERFORMER". buffalonews.com. August 21, 1994. Retrieved September 2, 2021.
  7. ^ a b c d e Jones, Dylan (April 20, 2012). "Icon: Sam Kinison". GQ. Retrieved January 12, 2018.
  8. ^ "Leader of the Banned". Megiloth.com. December 8, 1953. Retrieved May 19, 2014.
  9. ^ "Recovery Comedy is proud to present Andy Huggins". Recovery Comedy. Retrieved May 19, 2014.
  10. ^ "Recovery Comedy is proud to present Jimmy Pineapple". Recovery Comedy. Retrieved May 19, 2014.
  11. ^ "Kinison: The Scream Continues (2016)". IMDb. Retrieved November 12, 2016.
  12. ^ Holden, Stephen (August 2, 1985). "Nine Comedians Appear On Dangerfield Special". The New York Times. Retrieved February 27, 2015.
  13. ^ "Sam Kinison First Appearance on Letterman". YouTube. Retrieved May 19, 2014.
  14. ^ "Sam Kinison's Wild Ride - Las Vegas Weekly". lasvegasweekly.com. April 12, 2007.
  15. ^ Sam Kinison, Biography Channel, December 28, 2008.
  16. ^ a b Fleming, Michael (November 17, 2008). "'Brother Sam' set for HBO". Variety. Retrieved January 22, 2018.
  17. ^ Harris, Bill. "A Chat with Bill Kinison". Bullz-Eye.com. January 13, 2009.
  18. ^ We remember Sam Kinison | EW.com
  19. ^ Souiri, Sabrina. "PTSD Awareness Podcast and Raw Story Telling". Sabrina Souiri .com. Archived from the original on August 24, 2018. Retrieved October 31, 2023.
  20. ^ Dominguez, Ralph\ (January 22, 1990). "Sam Kinison, sister Sabrina Kinson and wife Malika Souiri (right) attend the 17th Annual American Music Awards at the Shrine Auditorium". alamy.com. Los Angeles, California. Retrieved October 31, 2023.
  21. ^
    • Seabaugh, Julie (May 9, 2007). "Oral history of Sam Kinison 1: AAAHHH! AAAHHH!". Las Vegas Weekly. Retrieved October 31, 2023.
    • Seabaugh, Julie (April 12, 2007). "Oral history of Sam Kinison 2: Wild Ride". Las Vegas Weekly. Retrieved October 31, 2023. Sabrina Stephan (formerly Souiri), comic and Vegas native: Initially (sister Malika and I) were bored on tour, so I came up with a shtick to get us on the show. I go, "He has a water glass. Notice?" She goes, "Yeah, so?" I go, "We're Vegas performers. We can do this." So he reaches for his water glass and it's not there. He looks in the wings and me and Malika are dressed in these ridiculous costumes. I came out with the pitcher; she comes out with the glass. We did it all showy, like the Arabs do, you know, they pour the water high. And he's like, "Malika and Sabrina, ladies and gentlemen!" Then he's like, "That was just too funny. Let's keep doing it!" The costumes became more outrageous.
  22. ^ "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.
  23. ^ "Jury Deadlocks in Kinison Bodyguard's Rape Trial". Los Angeles Times. October 26, 1990.
  24. ^ "Charges Dropped Against Kinison's Former Bodyguard". Associated Press. February 8, 1991. Retrieved May 19, 2014.
  25. ^ slash Duff sam
  26. ^ a b c d Wallace, Amy (April 12, 1992). "Friends Shocked by Violent Death of Mellower Kinison". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 26, 2013.
  27. ^ "Kinison Widow Sues Brother-in-Law Over Book". San Francisco Chronicle. April 7, 1995. Retrieved May 19, 2014.
  28. ^ "Sam Kinison's Widow Cries Fraud". TMZ. June 23, 2009. Retrieved January 12, 2018.
  29. ^ "Kinison fathered lovechild, pal says | Celebrities | Entertainment". Toronto Sun. February 19, 2011. Archived from the original on February 24, 2011. Retrieved May 19, 2014.
  30. ^ a b "Motorist, 17, Arrested In Death Of Sam Kinison". The Seattle Times. April 12, 1992. Retrieved October 26, 2020.
  31. ^ "Kinison album, concert vid planned". June 29, 1993.
  32. ^ a b Lambert, Bruce (April 12, 1992). "Sam Kinison, 38, Comedian, Dies; Wife Injured in Head-On Collision". The New York Times. Retrieved August 26, 2013.
  33. ^ "Teen in Crash Used Alcohol, CHP Says". Los Angeles Times. April 14, 1992. Retrieved October 26, 2020.
  34. ^ "Sam Kinison Autopsy Report" (PDF). Retrieved August 26, 2013.
  35. ^ "Tranquilizers, Cocaine Found in Kinison's System". Los Angeles Times. Associated Press. May 29, 1992. Retrieved August 26, 2013.
  36. ^ Carroll, Larry. Sam Kinison: Why Did We Laugh?. 1998. Pacific Sundog Productions, Inc.
  37. ^ LA Times
  38. ^ "Kinison album, concert vid planned". Variety. June 29, 1993. Retrieved May 19, 2014.
  39. ^ "Sam Kinisons Funeral Service". Getty Images. Burbank, California. April 15, 1992. Retrieved October 31, 2023.
  40. ^ "Sam Kinison". Waymarking.com. Retrieved May 19, 2014.
  41. ^ "George Carlin - Jammin' In New York Part1". YouTube. Retrieved May 31, 2017.
  42. ^ Scott, Gloria (November 11, 2008). "Sam Kinison". Digital Journal. Retrieved February 27, 2015.
  43. ^ 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.
  44. ^ A Tribute to Sam Kinison, from IMDb. Retrieved October 16, 2012.
  45. ^ "A Tribute to Sam Kinison (Part 1 of 5)". YouTube. Retrieved May 19, 2014.
  46. ^ Sneider, Jeff (November 17, 2010). "HBO's Sam Kinison Biopic Now Heading for the Big Screen". TheWrap. Retrieved January 22, 2018.
  47. ^ Lesnick, Silas (August 5, 2013). "Josh Gad to Headline Kinison". ComingSoon.net. Retrieved January 12, 2018.
  48. ^ Vanderknyff, Rick (September 5, 1992). "It's a Far Cry From Sobbing". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035.
  49. ^ Maureen, Bogues (February 19, 1991). "Family entertainment Kinison-style, isn't". The Lincoln Star.
  50. ^ Handelman, David (February 23, 1989). "The Devil and Sam Kinison". Rolling Stone. Retrieved October 25, 2020.
  51. ^ Hugar, John (July 25, 2016). "What Happens When Once-Beloved Comedy Fails the Test of Time?". Vulture. Retrieved May 11, 2020.
  52. ^ "American certifications – Sam Kinison". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved December 7, 2023.
  53. ^ "Sam Kinison – Wild Thing". australian-charts.com. Retrieved August 17, 2022.
  54. ^ "Malika Kinison, et al v. William Morrow & Company, et al :: Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles :: State Civil Lawsuit No. BC125308". plainsite.org. Retrieved October 31, 2023.
  55. ^ "Sam Kinison's Widow Cries Fraud". TMZ. Retrieved October 31, 2023.

External links[edit]