sam kinison photo

Comedy Review: Kinison Turns the Volume Down Slightly

By Mark Chalon Smith
Originally printed in The Los Angeles Times
Monday, July 29, 1991

ANAHEIM – What with the stupid macho posturing of Andrew Dice Clay and the bombastic assaults of shock-radio’s Howard Stern, these days Sam Kinison might seem an afterthought, almost quaint.

OK, quaint is probably too soft a word for the loudest of the loud, the original foul-mouth who’s offended just about everybody, especially women and homosexuals, along his screaming way. But the competition is heavy for entertainers with attitudes engaging in public one-upsmanship. So much anger, so much noise.

For a while there, Kinison complained that a lot of guys were stealing his act, but now he has backed off some, giving in to the inevitable. Even his approach has changed a bit: ever since Kinison publicly kicked cocaine and other nasty habits a couple of years ago, he has moved away slightly from the provocations that made him infamous.

The Kinison that showed up at the Celebrity Theatre Friday night wasn’t someone you would want in polite company, not by a mile, but some of his more personal attacks came across as half-baked, close to self-parody.

He even closed the gig with a plea to men to be more responsible in the bedroom with women. Blatantly facetious, of course, but the crowd of mostly guys didn’t like it anyway. They came to hear Kinison spit out one misanthropic, misogynistic blast after another–any hint of niceness was met with raucous boos that, at one point, even seemed to surprise the burly comedian.

A familiar barrage against homosexuals, in which Kinison goes on and on about their sexual practices, did get him going, bringing out what his critics say is his hateful essence. The audience, many obviously fueled by booze and the two heavy metal bands that opened the show, loved that riff. As usual, it all seemed pointless, only giving Kinison the opportunity to toss out a spate of vulgar images.

The most effective part of the one-hour performance, the part that indicated he may be veering more from the personal to the political, was a segment of his takes on the Persian Gulf War. It was hardly mainstream or conservative but was more controlled and more accessible than his other material.

Although he used the war for some redneck breast-beating over U.S. military superiority, Kinison also pointed out how one-sided, and almost bullying, the confrontation was. “It was like we had an army of Rich Littles doing an impression of the war,” he said. “Let me tell you, Col. Sanders could’ve won this war.”

He then turned to the actual hardware, especially the over-estimated firepower of the Iraqis. “What about that Scud missile? I didn’t know K-mart was a weapons dealer–shoot it out of your car then turn on CNN to see where it landed.”

The war’s aftermath and the United States’ approach to the Kurds also inspired Kinison. “I heard that eight of them died by getting hit in the head with the relief boxes we dropped on them. Can you believe that, man? I fell off the couch on that one.”

As for the quick victory, Kinison had a simple explanation: fear of Bob Hope. “Our troops were worried, man, that Hope would show up with his usual has-been celebrities like Jamie Farr and Ann Jillian. Man, they didn’t want to sit through that.”

Kinison returned to his old form shortly after, working an overly long bit on the homeless that was creepy and unfunny. He reduced the problem to an issue of laziness, suggesting that all bums be taken out and shot.

Here’s the only printable joke in the bunch: “I bought two homes just to (tee) the homeless off!!”

It sounded just like something Howard Stern would say.