They Didn’t Call Him “Subtle Sam Kinison”
Sam Kinison was, in fact, an extraordinarily loud, rude, offensive (“offensive” is, of course, a subjective judgment; so, I suppose, one might or might not find Kinison’s routine about homosexual necrophilia offensive) and funny – comic whose greatest popularity extended from his first appearance on Late Night with David Letterman on November 14, 19851 until his death in 1992.2
Kinison incorporated into his routines the cadences, exclamations, and movements of a revival evangelist, a profession he followed for years prior to his career as a comic. His act was also characterized by a cynical view of romance,3 vehement rants, and accounts of sexual exploits and drug and alcohol abuse.
Within the group of comics I enjoy and appreciate, Sam Kinison is sui generis. In fact, his qualities tend to be the polar opposites of my model comedian. Were there a prototype of comics I admire, I suppose it would be Bob Newhart early in his career.
As far as I know, Bob didn’t have much to say about homosexual necrophilia and, had he said anything about it, it would not been conveyed in screams.
While defining why one comedian cracks me up while another leaves me wondering how I missed the joke is an exercise in futility. I have always laughed when I have watched a Sam Kinison routine – and that’s that. I have, however, come to recognize two elements of his performances that I find especially seductive.
Part of Kinison’s appeal for me lies in his background as a minister. I grew up listening to evangelists perform in much the same style, albeit with different content. Those familiar with Sam Kinison’s act may be surprised – or frightened – to learn that, of revival-style preachers I’ve personally heard, Sam does not make the top three for amplitude, aggressiveness, or intimidation. And, not everyone, I’ve discovered, has the predilection Kinison and I share for seeing the humor in some of the more awkward parts of the story of Jesus, such as how Joseph must have been at least a little uneasy about Mary’s pregnancy – [Joseph interrogating Mary after learning she is pregnant] “So, he just told you he was an angel and you guys went into the garden?”
The other attraction is his advice to men on sexual performance.4 Where else is a guy going to be instructed that because sex is “a sacred experience,” he should therefore “make it a movie, make it an adventure?” Kinison admitted that his interest in this crusade began with the epiphany that “If I get really good at sex, maybe I won’t have to give everything I own away [in a divorce settlement] every six years.” In various routines, he gives specific directions for cunnilingus, points out that “every blow job is like a snowflake. It’s unique,” and advises men that their first job in the bedroom is to make the woman climax twice before she even sees his genitals. And, is there a more mutually gratifying, pragmatic, and philosophically sound principle by which to pursue an intimate relationship than the Sam’s words of guidance I have dubbed, The Kinison Primary Imperative:
Be the nastiest, darkest chapter in her sexual diary. … so when she moves onto a new person, she’ll say there were all the other guys, and then there was HIM!” … Then if she leaves you for another guy, you just made his life fucking interesting. Oh, he’s gonna know who you are.
Those, gentle reader, are words to live by.
Today’s Sam Kinison Video
The brief video below is Kinison’s explication of his thesis that “Jesus could not have had a wife.”
Re Sam’s performances, remember what he pointed out,
People at the back must be thinking, “Jesus, this is the sickest, most disgusting thing I’ve ever heard in my life.”
WRONG! I can top it
- David Letterman’s introduction of Kinison was, “Brace yourselves. I’m not kidding. Please welcome Sam Kinison.” Wikipedia [↩]
- Kinison was killed by a drunk driver [↩]
- Pertinent Kinison quotes include I don’t worry about terrorism. I was married for two years, If I get married again, I want a guy there with a drum to do rimshots during the vows, and The Devil hates marriage because it takes away fear of pain [↩]
- Kinison did have recommendations for women as well, although these suggestions have a distinctly male point of view: “Women…if there’s something that really gets you off, makes you come…..How about FILLING US IN, HUH? How about giving us a little INFORMATION to work with?[crowd laughs and cheers]. What are we, on an Easter Egg hunt? Tell us what YOU WANT! We will DO it! Will we do it guys? [Men cheer and applaud] WE WILL DO IT! Don’t tell your sister…or your mom…or your hairdresser. We’re the ones who fuck you! Tell US! We will fucking do it … [↩]