Sam Kinison was Great

Sam Kinison

This week I’m reading a Sam Kinison biography written by his brother Bill. It’s called Brother Sam: The Short, Spectacular life of Sam KinisonIf you’re a huge Kinison fan it’s worth a read, but be warned, the writing isn’t great and you can hear an axe being ground in the background of nearly every chapter.

It’s understandable, though. Sam really put his brother through some shit and I imagine not too many siblings have gone from taking care of their brother when they were a fucked up poor nobody to taking care of them when when they were a fucked up rich somebody.

I adored Sam Kinison as a kid. The first time I saw him was on his famous HBO special and then a few years later I saw his over the top scene in Rodney Dangerfield’s comedic masterpiece Back to School. Early on I was just responding to his screaming and whatnot. These days I find his religious and marriage material even funnier than I did in the 80s.

The book is peppered with really funny, dark stories I hadn’t heard before. One time when he was preaching the Gospel at a small Chicago church, he pulled out a .38 pistol and put two rounds into the ceiling to inspire his flock to dig a little deeper. He was in a bar fight with Jim Carrey as his backup. And he was quite the fan of threesomes.

He was also in a pretty big scene in The Three Amigos, but it got cut and the footage was lost. He was also up for the role of Beetlejuice. Imagine how different that would’ve been. I imagine the scenes with Winona Rider would’ve been even weirder. 

The book also mentions one of the most interesting things about Sam. When he was very young, he was involved in an accident and received a fairly serious brain injury. After that, he was never the same. He was wilder and angrier.

His impulsiveness is legendary. He would blow $15K at a time buying headbands and silk shirts. He had fast cars. When he ate at restaurants he’d ask the server what their biggest tip ever was, then leave them double whatever the answer was. He was generous and burned through money at an alarming rate. His appetite for drugs and women were enormous.

I just watched his performance on the Dangerfield’s HBO special. It still holds up, even if the references to Dr. Ruth are a little dated. That sort of high energy coupled with a feral mind is incredible to watch even three decades later.


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