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Sam Kinison was an American comedian best known for his crass humor and trademark scream. The Grammy-nominated comedian received his first break from fellow comedian Rodney Dangerfield.
A former preacher, Sam Kinison's raw comedy brought him intense highs and lows.
Actress-Director Rain Pryor talks about how her father Richard Pryor was a comedy pioneer with his raw stand-up performances and honest critiques of race.
Actress-Director Rain Pryor talks about her father Richard Pryor's comedic influences including Charlie Chaplin, Jackie Gleason and Bill Cosby and the comedians who have been inspired by him like Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock and Steve Harvey.
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Initially performing for free, Kinison became a regular fixture at the Comedy Store where he met and eventually befriended such comics as Robin Williams and Jim Carrey. Around this time, Kinison wed Terry Marrs, which proved to be another challenging relationship for him. The couple separated after two years, but they did not officially divorce until 1989.
Rodney Dangerfield gave him his first big break, giving him a spot on his HBO comedy showcase. The special ran in 1985 with Kinison taking over the nation's airwaves for several minutes to share his comic rants about marriage and world hunger. He was warmly received by viewers who had never seen anyone quite like the husky, beret-wearing comic with the razor-sharp wit. Before long, Kinison was making appearances on Saturday Night Live and Late Night with David Letterman.
The following year, Kinison released a successful comedy album, Louder than Hell, and entertained movie goers with his small role in the Rodney Dangerfield comedy Back to School. He played a college history professor who snaps in the film. That fall, however, Kinison's brash style of comedy landed him in hot water with television censors.
Before his appearance on Saturday Night Live in October 1986, the censors told him not to do his routines about the war on drugs and religion. Kinison, always the rebel, ignored their requests and did his act just as he originally wanted to. While the East Coast audience got to hear his comments, the NBC television network changed the program for its West Coast broadcast. Still, the remarks caused quite a stir, leading the show's producer Lorne Michaels to ban Kinison from Saturday Night Live. Michaels later reversed his decision after the network was inundated with letters and calls from Kinison supporters.
Kinison aspired to make it in films, but he did not have much luck after Back to School. His role in the comedy Three Amigos (1986) ended up on the cutting room floor, and his plans to star in another film ended up being scrapped. On the small screen, however, he did well with his first HBO special, Sam Kinison: Breaking the Rules (1987).
Away from the spotlight, Kinison became known for his hard-partying lifestyle. He was known to drink in excess and use drugs. For much of his career, Kinison "lived more like a rock star than a comic," wrote his brother and manager Bill Kinison in his book, Brother Sam: The Short, Spectacular Life of Sam Kinison. Kinison was also known for his outrageous appetite for women and had romantic dalliances with the likes of Jessica Hahn, Penny Marshall, and Beverly D'Angelo over the years. One to bear a grudge, Kinison feuded with fellow comedians Bobcat Goldthwait and Whoopi Goldberg among others during his career.
Considering his long-standing interest in music, it was not surprising when Kinison decided to fuse his comedy with rock'n' roll. His cover version of the Troggs' single "Wild Thing" was a hit in 1988 and the video was played frequently on MTV. That same year, Kinison received a Grammy Award nomination for his comedy album Have You Seen Me Lately?(1988).
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