Back from Hell: A Tribute to Sam Kinison

Originally broadcast on Comedy Central in February of this year, this one-hour show features over a dozen comics paying heartfelt tribute to one of the true comedy greats, with footage of Kinison routines both well-known and previously unreleased serving as the anchors to the topics that the comics discuss. There isn’t much here about Kinison’s life that hasn’t been covered before, but it’s still fun to watch guys like Denis Leary, Chris Rock and Ron White talk about Kinison’s influence while opening up about the differences between his on-stage persona and the off-stage teddy bear. The discuss his love of rock music (and even include the promo video and a live performance of “Wild Thing”), and how he brought the rock and comedy communities together, and even include a snippet of a religious sermon Kinison gave when he was still a preacher. The one thing they glossed over – and to be honest, we’re not at all surprised that they did this – was how much the quality of Kinison’s material dropped when the ’80s were over, when he stopped writing jokes and started screaming “Fuck You!” at the top of his lungs. It’s all right to acknowledge an artist’s decline and still love them; John Lennon was a shell of his former songwriting self when he died, but people still love him, and rightly so. It would have been nice to see these comics, and this special, do the same.

Click to buy “A Tribute to Sam Kinison”
Click to read Bullz-Eye’s induction of Kinison into their Comedy Hall of Fame
Click to read Bullz-Eye’s 2009 interview with Sam Kinison’s brother Bill Kinison

  

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Sam Kinison: Wild Child

It’s unfortunate that the curators of Sam Kinison’s catalog have limited access to his best material. This two-disc set features four performances by Kinison, though three of them were filmed in 1991, when he was selling out 5,000-seat theaters but his routine was in creative freefall. (To make matters worse, two of those routines look and sound like bootleg recordings.) The 1987 show “Breaking All the Rules” is easily the best of the bunch, with a still-hungry Kinison prowling the stage like a panther. Kinison’s playful bitterness, however, turns to pure ugliness on 1991’s “Family Entertainment Hour.” Kinison’s clearly playing to his audience’s fears here (gays), and even the bits that are supposedly for the women pander to the men at the same time. The gay bashing gets worse in the other two performances, “Outlaws of Comedy” and “Live in Las Vegas” (the bootleg shows), and even his audience appears to have had enough of it. He even had a band for two of the shows. (They were terrible.) If you want to speed-watch the set, pop in “Brother Sam,” a 2002 Playboy Channel tribute that features interviews with Kinison’s brother Bill as well as Rodney Dangerfield.

The real jewel in this set is the dress rehearsal footage, shot sometime around the “Breaking All the Rules” era. They use similar material, but Kinison seems looser here, more playful. Lastly, we must discuss the packaging, a needlessly oversized jewel case containing the two DVDs in paper sleeves. It screams of ‘the plant was having a clearance sale,’ which speaks to the overall lack of quality in the set. This is currently selling for $10 at Amazon. That sounds fair to us.

Click to buy “Sam Kinison: Wild Child”

  

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Bullz-Eye’s Stand-Up Comics Hall of Fame: The Class of 2009

It’s a whole new year, and what better way to celebrate than by honoring five of the funniest mofos ever to walk the planet?

Yes, that’s right, it’s time to induct a new class into Bullz-Eye’s Stand-Up Comics Hall of Fame! The inaugural class included notable funnymen Richard Pryor, Rodney Dangerfield, Bill Cosby, Lenny Bruce, and Bill Hicks — tough acts to follow, to be sure, but if anyone can stand up to the pressure, it’s the five comedy legends in the class of ’09.

Don RicklesLike Don Rickles, for instance. The curmudgeonly insult comic has been gracing talk show couches for decades, tossing off cutting one-liners and turning the phrase “hockey puck” into something more than sports terminology. His routines may seem quaint today, but catch him on a good night, and he’ll put any younger comic to shame — even a new insult legend like, say, a certain canine puppet.

Another oldie-but-goodie on this year’s list is Bob Newhart, the film and sitcom star whose deadpan stare and trademark stammer has always masked an unexpectedly subversive sense of humor — remember the way he ended Newhart by turning the entire series into a bad dream suffered by the character he played on The Bob Newhart Show? Though surely the most old-fashioned humorist in this year’s class, Newhart was also one of the most groundbreaking comics of his era — and his routines have aged better than most.

Speaking of groundbreaking, how about Steve Martin? The silver-haired stand-up has kept a fairly low profile for the last 10 years or so, periodically emerging to star in one poorly reviewed film or another, but during his heyday, Martin was a platinum-selling, SNL-hosting pioneer of absurdist humor. Who else could have snuck a ditty about King Tut onto Top 40 radio, then gone on to a career as a critically respected novelist and playwright? Even now, Martin remains as nuttily prolific as ever; 2009 will see him reprising his role as the nouveau Inspector Clouseau in Pink Panther 2 and releasing an album of original banjo music.

Sam KinisonThe one member of this year’s class who won’t be releasing anything new is Sam Kinison, the screeching ex-reverend who perished after his car was hit by a teenage drunk driver in 1992. He’s remembered today chiefly as the beret-wearing little screaming dude whose Jessica Hahn-led video for “Wild Thing” sparked a tidal wave of nocturnal emissions in the ’80s, but Kinison’s humor was smarter — and more tender — than he was given credit for.

“Tender” is not a word often used to describe our fifth inductee. Actually, these days, “funny” isn’t often used either, but Eddie Murphy‘s incendiary early run was so incredible that no amount of Meet Dave-level “comedies” can wipe away his legacy. Forget about The Adventures of Pluto Nash — no comedy collection is complete without Murphy’s Delirious, not to mention most of his movie and television appearances from 1980-87.

So, like we said — the first HOF class was a tough act to follow, but we think you’ll agree that this year’s set of honorees is up to the standard. So what are you waiting for? Read all about them here!

  

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