Back From Hell: Tribute To Sam Kinison – They Exposed The Wrong Guy To The Bible!


Comedy Central’s Back From Hell: Tribute to Sam Kinison may be the most honest example of its kind – which makes sense, since Kinison was probably the most honest stand-up comic there’s ever been. How honest is this tribute? Lenny Clarke, on remembering when he heard the news that Kinison was dead, ‘My first thought was, did you see the body?’

Sam Kinison was the guy whom every comic listened to in stunned disbelief. He could tackle subjects like starving kids in Ethiopia and make them funny. He always saw the flaws and the logic in situations and exploited them in his unique 110 decibel style. Hell held no horrors for him, for instance, because as he notes in a bit where he’s about to be given the two-bit tour of the place, ‘I’ve been married.’ To which a stunned Devil can only reply, ‘I‘m sorry. I didn’t know.’

Kinison was not for everyone. As Jon Lovitz recalls, seeing him onstage, half the audience was howling with laughter while the other half sat with their jaws dropped – which is part of the reason Lovitz was laughing ‘til tears streamed down his face!

Clarke, Lovitz and many other name comics – ranging from good old middle-if-the-road Jay Leno to Judy Tenuta, to Norm Macdonald, to Richard Belzer to Denis Leary and more – share their memories of Kinison. Some tributes would seem a little over the top, but when Chris Rock says that he misses two people from his life – ‘I miss my dad, and I miss Sam Kinison’ – you believe him.

I was more than a bit startled to learn that young Kinison was a preacher [there’s a clip from one of his sermons], but when you realise that, the way he could hold a crowd is just exactly the same. In fact, some of his best material is about religion – and the problems that come with being Jesus. It’s like Leary says, ‘They exposed the wrong guy to the bible.’

Then there was rock & roll Sam. Back From Hell includes clips from Kinison’s live version of Wild Thing, from a Las Vegas gig – and the music video that features more rock stars in one place since We Are The World! [Watching as odd a group of rockers as you’ve ever seen doing Pips’ routines while Billie Idol freaks out and Jessica Hahn writhes about in a circus ring is a unique experience.]

Sam Kinison was the stand-up comic as rock & roll evangelist and Back From Hell: Tribute To Sam Kinison is an entertaining look back at him and his unique, high-decibel style. If you’re not easily intimidated – or appalled – then you will find Back From Hell to be more fun than words can adequately express without the presence of a genuine Kinison primal scream.

Features: Stories From The Comedy Store [four reminiscences by Bill Kinison, Craig Gass, Marc Maron and Pauly Shore; Music: The complete Las Vegas performance of Wild Thing and the Wild Thing Music Video; Eight Additional Stand-Up Bits [including Jesus’ Wife].

Grade: Back From Hell: Tribute To Sam Kinison – A

Grade: Features – B

Final Grade: A-