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Sam Kinison (December 8, 1953 – April 10, 1992) appeared in the memorable double episode "It's a Bundyful Life (Part 2)" (1989) of Married with Children, as Al Bundy's guardian angel, who shows him what life would be like without him born (a take-off of the classic 1946 Frank Capra film It's a Wonderful Life).

A brash, crass stand-up comedian and actor, Sam was known for his intense, harsh and politically incorrect genre humor. A former Pentecostal preacher, he performed stand-up routines that were most often characterized by an intense style, similar to enthusiastic preachers, punctuated by his trademark scream. He died in a car accident on April 10, 1992.

Early life[]

Born in Yakima, WA [1] Kinison was the son of Marie and Samuel Kinison, and his father Sam was a Pentecostal preacher.[2] The family moved to East Peoria, IL, when Kinison was three months old.[3] His father pastored several churches around the country, receiving little income. Sam later attended East Peoria Community High School in East Peoria, Illinois. He also lived in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for a while with his parents. He followed in his father's footsteps as a Pentecostal preacher before becoming a comedian. 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. He attended Pinecrest Bible Training Center in Salisbury, New York.[4] After he and his first wife were divorced, he abandoned preaching and took up comedy as a profession.


Sam began his career in Houston, TX, where he performed in small clubs. It was not until his appearance on HBO's Rodney Dangerfield's Ninth Annual Young Comedians Special in the summer of 1984 that he became well known. His appearance on the special is widely considered to be his breakthrough performance. 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."[5]

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.

On several videos of his stand-up routines, a shot of his personalized license plate reveals the words "EX REV". Kinison made his film debut in Rodney Dangerfield's 1986 film Back to School, playing a short-tempered professor.

Sam 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.[6]

In 1988, Kinison recorded a novelty version of The Troggs' "Wild Thing", which appeared on his album Have You Seen Me Lately?. The video was a hit on MTV, as it featured cameos by Rodney Dangerfield, as well as many well-known rock musicians, including Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith, Ratt, Slash and Steven Adler of Guns N' Roses, Billy Idol, Steve Vai, Dweezil Zappa, Richie Sambora, Jon Bon Jovi and Tommy Lee, and a raunchy "roll on the mat" dance with Jessica Hahn, whom he had began dating, while still legally married to Terry Marze, his second wife. Also in 1988, Kinison appeared in the music video for the Bon Jovi single "Bad Medicine".

During one notable Tonight Show performance, Kinison delivered what began as a straightforward version of Elvis Presley's "Are You Lonesome Tonight?", which descended into angry ranting during the spoken breakdown, and then segueing back into a straightforward sung ending.

In 1991, Kinison starred in the FOX television show Charlie Hoover, in which he played the inner voice of the title character, appearing as a 12-inch tall man. Although it had a good timeslot, following the popular Chris Elliot sitcom Get a Life!, and made excellent use of Sam's outrageous comedy, the show went through many script changes, where the protagonist went from a put-upon family man to one whose wife and kids left him without explanation, and the show was cancelled after showing seven episodes.

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.[7] Another film Kinison showed an interest in starring in was a script for based on the book "The Incomparable Atuk", about an Eskimo who moves to the big city and achieves fame. Years earlier famous comedian John Belushi had expressed interest in auditioning for the title character, but died before any auditioning was to start and the project went into limbo. When the Atuk film again gained interest, Kinison expressed a desire to audition for Atuk, but did not get a chance prior to his death, and the production once again went into "development hell" (the term for a film that has been shelved). Two other famous men who read the script and considered auditioning for Atuk were John Candy and Chris Farley, who respectively died in 1994 and 1997. As of late, the Atuk film has been on indefinite hiatus, causing some to believe the film cursed, or the "Curse of Atuk". [8]

Personal life[]

Kinison was close friends with comedians Bill Hicks and Rodney Dangerfield. He was also a frequent guest on the Howard Stern show.

On April 4, 1992, six days before he died, Kinison married girlfriend Malika Souiri.


On April 10, 1992, Kinison died after his white 1989 Pontiac Trans Am was struck head-on on U.S. Route 95, four miles (6 km) north of Interstate 40 and several miles west of Needles, California, by a pickup truck driven by a 17-year-old boy who had been drinking alcohol.[9][10] The pickup truck crossed the center line of the roadway and went into Kinison's lane.

Sam is interred with family members at the Memorial Park Cemetery in Tulsa, Oklahoma. His grave marker includes the unattributed quote "In another time and place he would have been called prophet."[11]


Comedian George Carlin's eighth HBO stand-up comedy special, Jammin' in New York, was dedicated to the memory of Sam.[12] At the beginning of the broadcast, the words "this show is for SAM" appeared on the screen.[13]

On May 23, 1993, the Fox network aired a special entitled "A Tribute to Sam Kinison."[14] The special contained archival footage of Kinison and stand-up comedy performances by comedians including Robin Williams, Rodney Dangerfield, and Jim Carrey.[15][16]


  • Sam Kinison had been seriously considered for another comedy role, based on his performance in Back to School and his preacher past, the taxi-driving Ghost of Christmas Past in the comedy Scrooged. However, the role ultimately went to a good friend of leading man Bill Murray's, Buster Poindexter, best known for the song "Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot".
  • Sam Kinison was in another TV show with Katey Sagal, Tales From the Crypt. In a 1991 episode titled For Crying Out Loud, Sagal plays a banker who tracks down a rock promoter (Lee Arenberg) who has held a fraudulent benefit concert. Sam Kinison actually plays on his preacher past by being the rock promoter's conscience. Sagal and Kinison shared no screen time together due to his role being a voice actor.


  3. Luciano, Phil. "comedian called this 'home'", Peoria Journal Star, 2012-04-10, p. B1. Retrieved on 2012-04-10. 
  5. Sam Kinison's First Appearance On Late Night With David Letterman
  6. Sam Kinison, television biography from the Biography Channel, 2008-12-28
  7. Harris, Bill.
  8. "A Chat with Bill Kinison". January 13, 2009
  9. Bruce Lambert, "Sam Kinison, 38, Comedian, Dies; Wife Injured in Head-On Collision". The New York Times. April 12, 1992
  10. "Teen in Crash Used Alcohol, CHP Says". Los Angeles Times. April 14, 1992
  12., citing George Carlin and Tony Hendra, Last Words, page 245 (2009).
  13. Jammin' in New York (Part 1), from YouTube. Retrieved on October 16, 2012.
  14. 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 on October 16, 2012.
  15. A Tribute to Sam Kinison, from Internet Movie Database. Retrieved on October 16, 2012.
  16. A Tribute to Sam Kinison (Part 1), from YouTube. Retrieved on October 16, 2012.

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