The late Sam Kinison was black comedy's scourge: a whip-smart ex-minister who turned religion and relationships into vicious screeds, all screamed at the top of his lungs. The comedian passed away at age 38 in a 1992 car accident, but his growl and ungodly hurtful jokes live on in a new box set, The Sam Kinison Definitive Comedy Collection of 3 CDs and 7 DVDs. While the audio-only portion of the box features Kinison's vintage comedy LPs (Louder Than Hell, Leader of the Banned, Have You Seen Me Lately), its video portions including HBO specials ('87's Breaking the Rules), posthumously discovered live shows and several documentaries offer fellow comedian's outlook on the infamous, brilliant comic.
Like any comedy lover over 40 years of age, the first experience I had with the manic, howling preacher-turned-stand-up comic was during HBO's Rodney Dangerfield's Ninth Annual Young Comedians Special in the summer of 1985. Rita Rudner, Bob Saget and Yakov Smirnoff all made stellar showings during that early cable channel gig, but Kinison's set was a scorched earth affair. Every grotesque joke he uttered, whether about marriage or religion, was a primal scream geared to damn his soul on purpose and mock your teeny-tiny feelings.
By 1986, Kinison was touring the East Coast, and I brought my father to see him at a now-closed, Philadelphia club, the Chestnut Cabaret. Insensitive to subjects such as sexual identity, Kinison made jokes at the expense of Rock Hudson's AIDS crisis that, though embarrassingly bigoted, had the audience shocked, but still in stitches. From there, whether he appeared on Howard Stern's radio show or with hair metal guys from Mötley Crüe, Kinison's existence-mocking humor never let up. Even in death, Sam Kinison is still the king of enraging and engaging comedy.
Photo courtesy of Shore Fire Media
Posted on Tuesday, October 25, 2016