Sam Kinison

Sam Kinison
Sam Kinison & Rodney Dangerfield.jpg
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.
Cause of death Vehicle accident
Resting place Memorial Park Cemetery, Tulsa, Oklahoma, U.S.
Nationality American
Years active 1978–1992
Genres Black 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)
Children 1

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

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 August 1985.[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."

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]

Kinison in the 1980s

Howard Stern purchased 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 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]

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 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. 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.[20]


On Friday, April 10, 1992, Kinison was driving his white 1989 Pontiac 20th Anniversary Turbo Trans Am[21][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.[22][23] 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]

Kinison reportedly spoke to a higher power, expressing fear of death before calmly speaking his last words "Okay, okay" and then losing consciousness.[24] Efforts to resuscitate him failed and 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.[25][26] 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.[27]

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.[28]

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."[29]


Sam Kinison's comedy was at times accused of containing misogyny and homophobia, "charges that cannot always be easily dismissed" as mere jokes, according to a retrospective on Kinison's career in the Los Angeles Times.[30] For example, the group Queer Nation Nebraska demonstrated on a sidewalk in front of a Kinison show in Lincoln in February of 1991, chanting "Anti-woman, anti-gay, Sam Kinison go away!"[31]

A 2016 evaluation of the comic's work in New York Magazine speculates that Kinison's comedy "has failed the test of time" because of its sexism, which has come to seem increasingly troubling with time. The magazine notes this conclusion is complicated by the fact that Kinison could be considered as playing an intentionally shocking character, rather than speaking as himself.[32]


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.[33]

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."[34]

On May 23, 1993, FOX aired a special, A Tribute to Sam Kinison.[35] The special contained archival footage of Kinison and stand-up comedy performances by comedians including Robin Williams, Rodney Dangerfield, and Jim Carrey.[36][37]

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][38][39]





Other appearances and music videos

  • 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)
  • "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)


  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. ^ "Sam Kinison's Wild Ride - Las Vegas Weekly".
  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. ^ "Kinison fathered lovechild, pal says | Celebrities | Entertainment". Toronto Sun. February 19, 2011. Archived from the original on February 24, 2011. Retrieved May 19, 2014.
  21. ^ Pontiac Firebird (third generation)#1989
  22. ^ Lambert, Bruce (April 12, 1992). "Sam Kinison, 38, Comedian, Dies; Wife Injured in Head-On Collision". The New York Times. Retrieved August 26, 2013.
  23. ^ "Teen in Crash Used Alcohol, CHP Says". Los Angeles Times. April 14, 1992. Retrieved August 26, 2013.
  24. ^ "Kinison's Death in the Fast Lane". Entertainment Weekly. April 4, 1997.
  25. ^ "Sam Kinison Autopsy Report" (PDF). Retrieved August 26, 2013.
  26. ^ "Tranquilizers, Cocaine Found in Kinison's System". Los Angeles Times. Associated Press. May 29, 1992. Retrieved August 26, 2013.
  27. ^ Carroll, Larry. Sam Kinison: Why Did We Laugh?. 1998. Pacific Sundog Productions, Inc.
  28. ^ "Kinison album, concert vid planned". Variety. June 29, 1993. Retrieved May 19, 2014.
  29. ^ "Sam Kinison". Retrieved May 19, 2014.
  30. ^ Vanderknyff, Rick (September 5, 1992). "It's a Far Cry From Sobbing". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035.
  31. ^ Maureen, Bogues (February 19, 1991). "Family entertainment Kinison-style, isn't". The Lincoln Star.
  32. ^ Hugar, John (July 25, 2016). "What Happens When Once-Beloved Comedy Fails the Test of Time?". Vulture. New York Magazine. Retrieved May 11, 2020.
  33. ^ "George Carlin - Jammin' In New York Part1". Retrieved May 31, 2017.
  34. ^ Scott, Gloria (November 11, 2008). "Sam Kinison". Digital Journal. Retrieved February 27, 2015.
  35. ^ 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.
  36. ^ A Tribute to Sam Kinison, from IMDb. Retrieved October 16, 2012.
  37. ^ "A Tribute to Sam Kinison (Part 1 of 5)". YouTube. Retrieved May 19, 2014.
  38. ^ Sneider, Jeff (November 17, 2010). "HBO's Sam Kinison Biopic Now Heading for the Big Screen". TheWrap. Retrieved January 22, 2018.
  39. ^ Lesnick, Silas (August 5, 2013). "Josh Gad to Headline Kinison". Retrieved January 12, 2018.

Further reading

External links