hatever else you may think about the comedy of Sam Kinison, you have to concede at least one thing: it's very loud. That's intended neither as insult nor compliment; it's simply a statement of fact about the volume of the man's delivery. It may surprise you to learn, however, how he came to develop his oratory style. Well, at least indirectly, anyway.

Kinison was born in Yakima, Wash., the son of a Pentecostal preacher who served at many different churches around the country. It may not have resulted in the most stable lifestyle for Kinison, who also spent time in East Peoria, Ill., and Tulsa, Okla., but his father's profession proved inspiring enough to lead him to attend Pinecrest Bible Training Center, in Salisbury Center, New York. His life as a Pentecostal preacher came to an end, however, upon the divorce from his first wife. (Sam's brother, Bill Kinison, goes into more detail about Sam's life and career, including his time as a preacher, in a fascinating interview with Bullz-Eye.com.) From there, Kinison soon found his way to comedy, and when he did, the church would find itself on the receiving end of his comedic assaults, on more than one occasion. (So, for that matter, did marriage.)

The trip from the pulpit to the stage was short, in more ways than one. Kinison's unique style made him instantly memorable, and it took very little time for him to make a name for himself in the business, thanks in no small way to quickly finding a famous fan in the person of Rodney Dangerfield. It was after appearing on Dangerfield's "Ninth Annual Young Comedians Special" (see the video below) in the summer of 1984 that Kinison's career began to take off in a big way, leading him onto the talk show circuit and to "Saturday Night Live," "Late Night with David Letterman," and even "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson." His connection to Dangerfield also helped earn him a small but memorable role in "Back to School," as Professor Terguson, thereby exposing him to an ever-larger audience.

Sam Kinison Sam Kinison

Kinison's appearance (short and round with a relatively unkempt mane) and his delivery (screaming rants liberally seasoned with obscenities) made him a force to be reckoned with on the stand-up stage, and those traits also endeared him to the hard rock crowd. His first album, 1986's Louder Than Hell, quickly became de rigueur listening on heavy-metal tour buses, so when it came time to produce the follow-up, 1988's Have You Seen Me Lately?, he called in a great number of his famous fans to make a video for the obligatory novelty single, a cover of the Troggs' "Wild Thing." Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, Slash, Billy Idol, Steve Vai, Dweezil Zappa, Richie Sambora and Tommy Lee all made appearances, as did Dangerfield and a scantily-clad Jessica Hahn. Suffice it to say that although the song never made the top 100, it received countless airings on MTV.

Unfortunately, Kinison was a man prone to excess, and that included his intake of alcohol and the occasional recreational pharmaceutical. He battled with fellow comedians on occasion (his feud with Andrew Dice Clay is perhaps the most notorious) and spent many hours on Howard Stern's radio show in wars of words with everyone from Bobcat Goldthwait to Judy Tenuta. The combination of his volatile nature, and his steadfast preference to only take projects he felt were worth doing, made it difficult for him to cross over into TV or film. He did manage a few highly memorable guest turns on shows like "Tales from the Crypt" and "Married with Children," but his lone attempt at a full-fledged TV series – Fox's "Charlie Hoover," where he basically played Tim Matheson's conscience superimposed onto his shoulder – lasted for only a handful of episodes.

Sam Kinison ended up living a short, fast life, dying at 38, but the irony is that his death had nothing to do with his own lifestyle -- well, not directly, anyway. In April 1992, six days after marrying Malika Souiri, a 17-year-old drunk driver hit Kinison's Pontiac Trans-Am. That driver survived, as did Souiri, but Kinison was killed. Although Kinison was found to have traces of cocaine, prescription tranquilizers and codeine in his bloodstream, the fault in the accident was found to be that of the teen driver.

Kinison's comedic legend lives on beyond the grave, however, thanks to his brother, Bill Kinison, who wrote a biography ("Brother Sam") that has been optioned for a movie by HBO. He also allowed Sam to release an album posthumously (1993's Live from Hell). There have been tributes to Kinison in the films "Domino" and – for better or worse – "Pauly Shore Is Dead." When it comes down to it, though, Kinison's legacy is his stand-up. Once you've heard him perform, you'll never forget it.

Sam Kinison Videos

Sam makes his network TV debut on Letterman

Sam's second Letterman appearance

Another Letterman appearance, just for good measure

Sam performs on Carson

Again on Carson

Sam on Arsenio

"Are you having any fun, ladies and gentlemen?!?"

Jesus didn't have a wife

Sam & Rodney in "Back to School"

A tribute to Brother Sam

Breaking the Rules, Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5


Essential Albums

It's a toss-up between Kinison's debut album, 1986's Louder than Hell, and his sophomore effort, 1988's Have You Seen Me Lately? The former introduced the world to the man's screaming comedic genius, but the latter is generally the one that most people remember, due to the inclusion of Kinison's cover of the Troggs' "Wild Thing." Each is an example of classic Kinison, but if you revisit both records, you'll probably find yourself favoring Louder than Hell. (It only takes one spin of "Wild Thing" to realize that it's just not the same without watching the video.)

Comedy Discography

Louder than Hell (1986)

Have You Seen Me Lately? (1988)

Leader of the Banned (1990)

Live from Hell (1993)


"Savage Dawn" (1985)

"Back to School" (1986)

TV Series

"Married with Children" (1989)

"Tales from the Crypt" (1990)

"Charlie Hoover" (1991)


"Brother Sam: The Short, Spectacular Life of Sam Kinison," by Bill Kinison and Steve Delsohn (1994)

TV Specials

"The Young Comedians Special" (1984)

"Rodney Dangerfield: It's Not Easy Bein' Me" (1986)

"Sam Kinison: Breaking the Rules" (1987)

"Rodney Dangerfield: Opening Night at Rodney's Place" (1989)

"Sam Kinison: Banned" (1990)

"The Sam Kinison Family Entertainment Hour" (1991)

"Sam Kinison: Why Did We Laugh?" (1998)

Sam Kinison Sam Kinison Sam Kinison
Famous Last Words

Have you seen those guys in the malls with the strollers, with that look on their face like they envy the dead? 'Somebody shoot me! This isn't the mall! I'm in Hell!'

You want to do something about world hunger? Stop sending them food. Don't send them any more food. You want to help these people? Send them U-Hauls, send them boxes, some luggage, send them a guy that says, 'Hey, you know, we just drove 750 miles across the desert with your food, and it occurred to us that there wouldn't be world hunger if you lived where the food is! You live in a desert! Do you understand that? You live in a desert! Nothing grows there! Nothing's ever gonna grow there!'

Detox? There's a bargain. $13,000 for a three-and-a-half week treatment. And, folks, I don't want to sound like a casual user or anything, but if you can come up with $13,000, you don't have a problem yet!

I know you think you got it tough: your wife doesn't respect you, your kids think you're a failure, a good day for you is when you don't come across any new foot diseases...believe me, I sympathize. But you think your life reeks? Take a whiff of mine, pal. My wife gained a hundred pounds for every year we were married. We had two kids, I think she ate 'em, I dunno. I hated driving home so much I had vanity plates written up that said "hit me." But despite it all, she loved me. You know how I know? Because she TOLD ME! Oh yeah. When I was at work, she loved my father, my brother, my bookie...but when I found my grandfather's teeth in my bed under the pillow, then I knew there was trouble in paradise. That's when I did what any other man would do, Bundy. I canceled my insurance and I hung myself. Showed her, huh?

Rock Against Drugs, what a name. Somebody was high when they came up with that title. It's like Christians Against Christ. Rock created drugs.

If I get married again, I want a guy there with a drum to do rimshots during the vows." "Jesus had a tough life. I read about that guy. Jesus is the only guy that ever came back from the dead that didn't scare the fuck out of everybody!

There's no happy ending to cocaine. You either die, you go to jail, or else you run out.

YOU FUCKING WHORE! You used me! You never loved me! I hope you slide under a gas truck and taste your own blood! DIE! DIE! DIE! I want my records back! I want my fucking records back!

I would like to sing a song for my buddy Rodney, whose girl Laverne broke his heart and let him down; but what Rodney doesn't know, he's got every reason to feel so low, 'cause, Rodney, she fucked everyone in this fuckin' town. YOU FUCKING WHORE!!! You used Rodney, you never loved Rodney! Remember when Rodney went to the ball game? You had your own ball game! You fucked the whole fire department! You were the fire, you fucking bitch — they had to use your fucking hose! Oh yeah, you fucked a butcher because he said he had the biggest salami in town! I know all about you! You read "Moby Dick" because you thought there was dick in it! It was the only book you read; you ended up sucking the book! I was best friend, you sucked my dick, I felt guilty — how come you didn't feel guilty?! 'Cause you don't feel anything, you fucking whore! OH, OH, you oughta die, die, you fucking bitch! DIE! DIE, YOU WHORE! DIE DIE DIE DIE! How's THAT Rodney, ya feel any better?!