"Brace youselves. I'm not kidding."—David Letterman, introducing Sam Kinison to the world in 1984
A Preacher's Kid who dabbled in the family business himself as a young man, Kinison brought the fire-and-brimstone speaking style to the American comedy stage, and combined it with Refuge in Audacity turned Up to Eleven.
Kinison's memorable bits included "gay necrophilia"; "lick the alphabet"; "Jesus on the cross" (which included pounding the microphone on the floor to simulate the nails being hammered); "execute Pee Wee Herman"; "Russians are space pussies"; "the Kurds are the most fucked people on earth"; "I'm not afraid of Hell, I was married for two fucking years"; "shoot the homeless"; "emotional tampon" (about being 'just friends' with a woman); "move the Ethiopians to where the food is", and countless attacks on homosexuality.
His most famous media appearance was his portrayal of a whacked-out history professor in Rodney Dangerfield's Back to School. He also recorded a novelty version of The Troggs' pop song "Wild Thing". The music video was a huge hit on MTV (and featured Jessica Hahn, the church secretary in the Jim Bakker scandal, about whom Kinison said "if you're going to lose a kingdom for some pussy, this is the girl"). He also starred in Charlie Hoover, a Herman's Head-like sitcom, which ended after seven episodes because of Kinison's death.
Tropes exemplified by Kinison:
- A Hell of a Time: One of his bits was about how a man who has seen the horrors of marriage would not be frightened by Hell, to the point that Satan would offer a married man a job as an assistant.
- Anti-Love Song: Several, most famously "Wild Thing", and the song he played on the piano after his "emotional tampon" bit.
- Berserk Button: While his first marriage causes a few snarls to pass Sam's lips, anything to do with his second marriage sends him into full-on "I LIVE IN HELL" rage.
- Did Not Do the Research: Some early bits about AIDS and cosmetic surgery are embarrassingly bad; his later material acknowledged this to some extent.
- Disproportionate Retribution: One of his jokes involved an ex-girlfriend putting a loaded .38 in his airline carry-on bag in retaliation for him cheating on her. Him calling up audience member's ex-girlfriends to scream nasty words at them borders on this as well.
- One joke has him suggesting you do every sexually deviant thing you can think of with your girlfriend. So that if she leaves you for another guy, that next guy isn't going to be able to do anything exciting with her at all. Not even The Alphabet.
- Drugs Are Bad: Inverted; like his contemporary Bill Hicks, Kinison advocated drug use in his material.
- Incoming Ham: OH! OHHHHHHHH!
- Hypocritical Humor: For all his rants about the horrors of marriage, Sam went and married a third time just before his death.
- While he would rant against marriage, he recognized that falling in love and being in relationships are normal things to do... which is where he suggests to his audience that they get raunchy as hell.
- His material on religion, especially corrupt preachers, would comment on the hypocrisy of "saintly" Christians wallowing in excess and sin.
- Hey, Write What You Know, right?
- Large Ham: Oh yeah...
- Love Hurts: Which part of "I WAS MARRIED FOR TWO FUCKING YEARS!" do you think highlights this trope?
- Mad Love: Emphasis on mad.
- Mean Character, Nice Actor: What you saw on stage was pretty much him, but quite a few young comedians and friends attest to him being very personable and willing to help anybody out.
- No Indoor Voice
- Obi-Wan Moment
- Old Shame: "I Missed The Joan Rivers Show"
- One-Scene Wonder: As Turguson, the history professor in Back to School. So intense that even Rodney Dangerfield has to enter into Berserk Button mode just to stay alive.
- Please Dump Me
- Refuge in Audacity: Big time.
- Smite Me Oh Mighty Smiter: Kinison mentions on his second album that God was gonna come calling about all those Jesus jokes. With references to his ex-preacher career throughout most of his stand-up routines.
- Up to Eleven: Or twelve. Or twenty.
- Wonderful Life: A Christmas Episode of Married... with Children built around this guest-stars Kinison as Al Bundy's guardian angel.
- What Could Have Been: Kinison himself was suggested at one point to play Al Bundy.
- Worst News Judgment Ever: The opening bit on his album Live From Hell: "There's a guy in Milwaukee with heads in his icebox, but our top story tonight: Sam Kinison missed The Joan Rivers Show."