Live From Hell

Sam Kinison

Priority Records, 1994

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Love him or hate him, the comedy world has yet to recover from the death of Sam Kinison.

When Kinison was killed in a car crash in 1992, the scene lost one of its most vocal satirists. His abrasive, caustic style often called our attention to subjects other comics didn't want to tread on. (Ironically, Kinison ripped world hunger organizations on his debut album Louder Than Hell; over the past two weeks, the Chicago Tribune has run investigative reports on these agencies. Too bad Kinison scooped them by a decade.)

After his death, Live From Hell was more than a scream beyond the grave - it was a fitting memorial to the comedian. And it's an album I constantly find myself drawn back to, even though I've listened to it over 50 times over the last five years.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Recorded in Houston, Kinison is captured in non-stop rare form. If there were any golden calves left that Kinison hadn't defrocked, he found them on this album. No one - from Captain Kangaroo to Jeffrey Dahmer - was safe from his often biting, often obscenity-laden tirade. (Obviously, this one ain't for the kids - though the adults should find this incredibly funny.)

But there is a message behine the shock. Fresh off the incident where Paul "Pee-Wee Herman" Reubens was arrested in an adult theater, Kinison calls for "Pee-Wee Herman" to be executed: "Make an example of him to other people involved in children's programming." And in one sense, you find yourself agreeing with the hidden message that those who do children's television should be more careful what they involve themselves in.

Offended? Lighten up, gang - it's a joke. Kinison no doubt was kidding when he called for executing the homeless in America, but he did bring to light a more serious question: How can we allow people to be homeless in a country like America, the land of opportuinity? When you're not laughing, Kinison has you thinking.

Some of the comedy misses the mark - such as an alleged liaison with Penny Marshall and some of the barbs against the gay community (though it is a little tamer than earlier routines). But Kinison manages to pull off a strong 50-minute routine with only a few fluctuations - probably better than some of his detractors thought he would be able to do.

If you're looking for the traditional shouts that Kinison peppered his act with, they're not as sharp as they used to be - possibly the only concession Kinison was making to age.

Live From Hell's most poignant moment comes at the end of the album, after Kinison has left the stage... a fan yells out,"Sam! Where are you?" How true, indeed...

Kinison's style of comedy was definitely not for everyone, but if you can get past the shock value of the material and enjoy it for what it is - biting, hilarious social commentary - then Live From Hell is an album worth searching out. (For that matter, long-time fans of Kinison may wish to visit the official home page and sign a petition asking Warner Brothers to finally release Louder Than Hell on compact disc.)


Rating: A-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Priority Records, and is used for informational purposes only.