An Oral History of Sam Kinison

Filed Under Stand-Up Comedy

Sam Kinison Performing Stand-UpLast week, Julie Seabaugh of the Las Vegas Weekly completed a two-part oral history of the life of Sam Kinison fifteen years after he died in a car accident with a drunk driver on a highway near sin city. (Part One | Part Two) The interview subjects are obviously going to be filled with wild man stories, particular in the second part which are the more misogynistic “Wild Thing” years. But there’s plenty of insight to be had beyond the addiction parts of the tale.

First off, Sam Kinison originally began doing comedy with props. Yes, props. Sam Kinison, however briefly, flirted with the dangerous, much derided discipline of prop comedy. The only thing worse would be, “Sam Kinison played in prop comedy. But he stopped. But can you imagine if he stuck with it? I think it would go something like this…”

And, in a reference that would probably put another wrinkle on the current joke stealing debates, filmmaker Kevin Booth mentions that Bill Hicks and Sam accused the other of stealing. Bill thought Sam took some of his material. And Sam thought Bill was taking his act, which, if you follow the chain of previous accusations made by Hicks, means Denis Leary stole from Sam. I don’t know whether to put much stock in this - I’ve never compared the two because though they influenced each other, they’re both obviously unique artists. One of the reasons stealing accusations may never been followed up on in the past is because bad blood, like the kind that came between Hicks and Kinison, tainted them.

There’s also lots of great details about the 80s era Comedy Store, which will probably give you an idea of why Joe Rogan, among other comics, revere it. Another surprise is the passing mention of Rita Rudner and Kinison conidering doing a movie together. It actually sounds like a not-bad idea with Kinison as a newly released convict and Rudner as the woman who married him in prison. Still to many it’ll sound like a pairing that would play at Hades Cinemas 24.

Sam sounds bigger than life for much of the piece. If you’re looking for something that’s a bit more of the man than legend, it’s not this. But the legend is kind of the fun part anyway, right? My favorite story in here has to be from Ralphie May, who hung with the comic when he won the chance to open for him at 17. At the after party afterwards….

Sam comes out of a room, and he goes, “Kid, order some pizza.” So I order from Shakey’s Pizza, and we get like 10 pizzas sent up. Sam pays for the pizza and tips the guy three baggies of cocaine. Thirty minutes later we get a phone call, “Hey, you guys need more pizza?”

There are some human elements. In particular, a few friend admit Sam’s problems continued to his death, undercutting the mythic irony of his death. Sabrina Stephan stated:

Because all that crap about him cleaning up before he died, what a crock of shit. He didn’t happen to be high when he was driving that day, you know?

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Comments

Posted by Wampus on 04/21  at  10:02 PM

Thanks for the link. People in the article are right. Those six minutes on Young Comedians were brilliant. I wish they hadn’t mentioned Wild Thing, because that—not so brilliant.

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