Sam Kinison Biopic Back on Track With New Star


My life on the Left wasn’t a total write off.

Sure, I wish I had back all the money I spent on cigarettes and booze, and I regret wasting my then-22 inch waist on a stoner trust-fund boyfriend.

Yet very occasionally, I’d experience a life-changing epiphany while sitting on the rodent-infested couch in our drafty, leaking apartment.

I’ve written about one of those moments before: The Night I Stopped Hating Ronald Reagan.

Another incident occurred under almost identical circumstances: me and the boyfriend, watching TV.

It was The David Letterman Show.

I couldn’t stand the guy, but his show was the “approved” late night program in our circle, and besides, sometimes Letterman’s guests were worth waiting up for.

On this particular night, Letterman introduced his next guest with the words:

“Brace yourselves. I’m not kidding. Please welcome Sam Kinison.”


It was the year of Live Aid.

“We Are The World” and all that.

My boyfriend and I looked at each other, our eyes bulging.

We didn’t have to exchange words. We were both thinking the same thing:

Why did we keep sending food and aid to those people?

They looked just as emaciated now as they had when my boyfriend and I were kids, looking at the same “won’t you please give generously?” commercials.

Where had all that money gone?

Something wasn’t quite right.

And that “something” probably wouldn’t get fixed just because a bunch of celebrities “checked their egos at the door,” and young people like us tried to “change the world.”

Yet in those days, such thoughts were heresy.

Listen carefully to Kinison’s set: a single “boo!” from the audience is soon overtaken by a riot of approving applause.

This weird guy on the TV, who looked and sounded like he’d push you onto the subway tracks, was onto something.

Like so many performers, Kinison was a mess: a preacher’s kid who’d been a Pentecostal minister himself until an ugly divorce set him on the road to professional stand up comedy — and the booze and drugs that have always been such part of that scene.

Ironically, Kinison died shortly after he got clean, after his car was struck by a drunk driver. He was 38.

That of course means only one thing: the inevitable biopic.

The project has bounced around Hollywood for some time.

When Tony award winner Dan Fogler’s audition tape went viral a few years back, everyone assumed he had the lead locked up. His embodiment of Kinison was impressive.

However, the “Sam Kinison story” changed hands, as happens so often in show biz.

It will still be based on the book Brother Sam, by Bill Kinison.

But many were shocked and disappointed to learn this week that Fogler has been replaced by another Broadway performer: Josh Gad (soon to be seen portraying Steve Wozniack in Jobs.)

Movies about comedians range in quality from the masterful Lenny to the legendarily unwatchable Wired.

Few filmmakers can resist the urge to get all zany and wacky and pretentious and corny. (Look if you dare at the celluloid nightmare known as Holy Flying Circus.)

Most directors and performers seem content with capturing uncanny impersonations on film without bothering too much about decent dialogue and an engaging plot, not just a montage of one Very Famous Incident after another.

It is possible to combine all those elements, even with unpromising source material; you certainly don’t expect a film about the tragic love lives of the Carry On gang (!) to turn out to be a little gem.

So will Kinison turn out more like Cor, Blimey! or Man on the Moon?

We’ll have to wait until next year to find out.

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