Directed By: Robert Small
Starring: Sam Kinison, Dennis Leary, Chris Rock, Norm McDonald, Ice T, Lenny Clarke, Jay Leno, Kathy Griffin, George Lopez
Sam Kinison was an elemental. In the olden days there was earth, wind, fire water and Sam. Now we have to get by with just earth, wind, fire and water. If you have any doubts just pop in this DVD. He may be crude, vulgar, insensitive, and blasphemous but he was funny, even if you felt a little queasy laughing at some of his material.
Sam Kinison passed away in 1992, like many great artists he was taken from us way too soon. Sam’s first Letterman appearance was only in 1985 so the public had less than a decade to appreciate this crude misanthropic genius. Sam started out as a fundamental fire and brimstone preacher, but after a tortuous two year marriage and God knows what else he turned to stand up, using his former avocation and disastrous marriage for a big part of his material. Vulgarity and deep suspicion of religion have been staples of comedy from the very beginning but Sam’s fearlessness of taking on any subject, his brutal honesty and an ability to share his pain in a side splitting fashion was and still is unique.
The program starts with some teaser quotes from the comedians interviewed for the tribute it’s kind of like a commercial for the DVD but it’s not long before the heart of the tribute kicks in, the snippets of Sam onstage, and that’s where it shines. The interviews are all cut up and interspersed through the show mixed up with clips of Sam onstage. Which works well enough, most of the interviews are interesting but you can only take so much of a bunch of people sitting in chairs talking about how funny, crazy or ground breaking a guy is. Luckily when the interviews start to get little long in the tooth it cuts to Sam’s stand up and shows you that Sam was as funny, crazy, and ground breaking as the interviews claimed. Where the interviews shine is after they get past the obligatory praise and get into how much Sam meant to them. There is one quote from Chris Rock that is blurbed on the DVD cover. “I miss my Dad and I miss Sam Kinison.” Which comes across as completely over the top when you see the printed words, but when you see Chris say it and he’s choking up a little bit you believe it.
Beyond just praising and paying tribute to Sam the interviews do get into Sam’s career trajectory, describing his early days drawing crowds after midnight at the comedy store, his relationship with Rodney Dangerfield and his later days as stand up rock and roll star. Sprinkled in are enough anecdotes to prove that his personality offstage was not that different than his onstage persona. His appetites for drugs and women are explored and proven to be as insane as you ever imagined. As insightful as the interviews are, the heart of the show is Sam and there is plenty of Sam here. At least half of the program is Sam onstage and he is as funny as I remembered. From the early days when he’s pacing the stage in a beret and trench coat to his later career when he’s decked out like a rock star with a band and scantily clad women on stage with him he’s always funny. As outrageous as he got he had the charisma to pull it off.
The video is presented in widescreen format even the archival clips of Sam’s stand up. The interviews are all sharp and crisp with good color and the later clips of Sam’s stand up are of excellent quality. The older clips are a bit on the grainy side but the quality is still satisfactory. I never noticed any aliasing or moiré or other digital artifacts.
The audio is presented in Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound or in Dolby Stereo in English only. There are no subtitles. The audio is always clear and dialog easily heard the only distortion I noticed was during some of Sam’s roars, but considering his roars is completely understandable.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The DVD is packaged in a standard width DVD ECO Box which is a standard DVD case with extraneous portions of the case cut away. The artwork has an entirely appropriate heavy metal theme to it that is carried over into the menus for the DVD. There are a few extras included on the DVD including more stories from the Comedy Store featuring Pauly Shore and Marc Maron, Sam’s Wild Thing video and best of all more of Sam’s stand up.
The interviews are nice but to tell you the truth I would have been just as happy with a solid hour of just Sam and a microphone.
Overall (Not an Average) 7/10
The Movie 7/10
The Video 7/10
The Audio 7/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 7/10
Overall (Not an Average) 7/10