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Sam Kinison - Biography


Comedian Sam Kinison
Photo courtesy Comedy Central


December 8, 1953


April 10, 1992

Sam Kinison Overview:

Sam Kinison may have been the original "heavy metal" comic. With his long hair and trademark bandanna, Kinison could have just as easily been taken for a rocker as for a comic. Inspired by cutting-edge legends like Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor, Kinison had a take-no-prisoners approach to comedy, developing a signature style in which his rants would end in a fevered scream (he would punctuate jokes with his trademark "Oh! Ooooohhhhh!!"). Though he died before the age of 40, Kinison left a huge impact on stand-up comedy, inspiring comics from Denis Leary to Bill Hicks to Chris Rock.

Quick Sam Kinison Facts:

  • Kinison was born in Yakima, Washington.
  • He was a preacher for several years before becoming a stand-up comic.
  • Four Kinison stand-up albums were released, including Louder Than Hell and Leader of the Banned.
  • He was killed in a car accident in 1992, just six days after getting married.

In the Beginning:

Sam Kinison was born in 1953 as the son of a Pentecostal preacher. After attending high school in Illinois and living in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for several years, Kinison chose to follow in his father's footsteps and attended the Pinecrest Bible Training Center in New York. After divorcing his first wife, Kinison gave up preaching and found his way to stand-up comedy.

Stand-up Sam Kinison:

Kinison's background as a preacher became part of his stand-up. He transformed his "fire and brimstone" oratory into his famously intense, screaming comedy delivery, and used Christianity as a major source of his comedy.

His big break in stand-up didn't come until 1984, when he appeared on HBO's Ninth Annual Young Comedians Special hosted by Rodney Dangerfield. Kinison's aggressive style and edgy material made an impression on Dangerfield, leading to a long working relationship between the two. Kinison would go on to appear in two more of Dangerfield's comedy specials, as well as the 1986 film Back to School.

Comedy and Beyond:

Kinison released three stand-up albums during his career: Louder Than Hell in 1986, Have You Seen Me Lately? in 1988 and Leader of the Banned in 1990. A fourth album, Live From Hell, was released a year after his death.

Though Kinison had tried to get a film or television career off the ground, his controversial comedy and substance abuse issues kept many projects away. After several small appearances in movies and on TV shows like Married With Children, Kinison finally got his own FOX sitcom, Charlie Hoover, in 1991. It lasted only seven episodes before being canceled.

Sam Kinison Passes On:

On April 10, 1992 -- just six days after marrying girlfriend Malika Souiri -- Kinison's car was struck by a 17-year old on U.S. Route 95 near Needles, California. Both the other driver and Kinison's new wife (who was a passenger in the car) sustained minor injuries. Kinison died on the scene.

Additional Sam Kinison Facts:

  • In a 2004 special on Comedy Central, Kinison was voted #20 of the 100 Greatest Stand-ups of All Time.
  • Kinison scored an MTV hit in 1988 with the video for his novelty cover of The Troggs' "Wild Thing," which featured a huge roster of popular musicians making cameos as well as his then-girlfriend Jessica Hahn.
  • Ever the outspoken comic, Kinison had several well-publicized feuds with other comedians, including Bobcat Goldthwait and Andrew "Dice" Clay.

If You Like Sam Kinison, Check Out

Bill Hicks, Lenny Bruce, Denis Leary, Richard Pryor, Chris Rock

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