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"MY making" of "I AM Sam Kinison!"

 article about I AM Sam Kinison
2018-01-19 05:21:59
(One comic's use of 5 min of his fame!)

A much anticipated, but hardly heralded stand-up biography has finally arrived! Vancouver's Network Entertainment biggie Derik Murray and writer/producer/director Adrian Buitenhuis have patiently and meticulously midwifed their latest arrival, and then finally birthed it at the end of our tumultuous year. And this baby really SCREAMS! He screams a whole lot! Let's all give a big slap on its bare bottom to "I AM Sam Kinison!"

As SPIKE TV faces its demise, and up-morphs (rebrands) into Paramount TV, it loudly departs with a new "smack in the face" TV profanity record. Congrats to courageous VP Jon Slusser. The recent (late prime time) version of "I AM Sam Kinison!" debuted with an astounding 137 bleeps! (And that's what happens when they say that many sh*ts and f**ks on national TV) SPIKE's swan song, Jon's brave, uncensored version, which was aired after midnight, had zero omissions for foul language. (Well, one takes one's viewing choices wherever one can find them) As a comic myself, I was checking for accuracy, on how our stand-up was presented. Derik Murray, Adrian, and co-writer John Barbisan do not let us down!

With their latest in a series of X-ray documentaries on the exotic lives of high profile comedians, the Murray & Buitenhuis combo strikingly deliver a hard ninety minute saga, (with adeptly crafted animated bits) that catapult viewers to its sad end. I didn't cry... then. But I might have…later! Maybe. A tight herd of comics featuring Jay Leno, Argus Hamilton, Joey Gaynor, Judy Tenuta, Bill Burr, Dan Barton, Steve Epstein, Felicia Michaels, Tommy Chong, Joe Rogan, and The Comic in Red Shoes feed their uniquely personal touches into the raging bonfire that was Kinison's rowdy ride through his comedy life. Do-Gooders Charlie Sheen, Ted Nugent, Corey Feldman, Sam's brother Bill, an older porno star, and quite a few more throw extra gasoline into the director's scathing caldron. Buitenhuis' frenetic tale manages, at almost every corner Sam turned, to tell nearly the whole Kinison truth. Nearly. Not bad for a Canadian, half my age. I felt privileged to be one of the few Comedy Store stand-ups to make a contribution to Derik, Adrian, and SPIKE TV's enlightened and upbeat portrayal of a former friend.

This is how MY "the making of" looked to me:
As Kinison's stand-up BFFs were queried, it led to his inner circle, and to Dan Barton, a fellow Houston comic, who was Sam's confidant, feature act, and semi-sidekick. Dan told them to talk to another funny act, Joey Gaynor from The Comedy Store, who I'd worked with since the 70's. Several of us at The Store had tried to give Sam an assist when he first arrived in Hollywood. During Joey's lengthy interview, he pointed them at me. I was on the inside at The Comedy Store as one of the owner's closies, and Sam and I had been goofing around for a couple of years. (When he was just scraping by, I let him camp on my sofa in three different apartments!) Next, Mr. Buitenhuis called me. Little did I know, this lanky, amiable dude from Vancouver, would ambush me down the road.

Adrian introduced himself as the director of a documentary on the life of a somewhat notorious stand-up comic out of The Comedy Store, and then asked if I would speak freely about Sam Kinison. I agreed. I related some stories; he said he would call me back. His next call offered a time and place to shoot, but included NO pay! I politely demurred. After several days shooting, Adrian called again and asked me: "Do I have to set up my camera in your garage, to get you to do this?" I counter-offered my appearance on film and video for three considerations: 1-bringing fellow comic and techno-whiz Al Bahmani to shoot some on set photos. 2- An opportunity to view my raw footage! ("An artist's life has such few rewards!") And 3-Taking photos of my "Star for Mitzi!" poster, the Comedy Store 1988 yearbook, and my new book: "Stand-up Decoded!" Happily, Adrian accepted and sealed the deal. He made my call on his set for four days later.
 article about I AM Sam Kinison
Photo by Al Bahmani

 article about I AM Sam Kinison
Photo by Al Bahmani

His set location was 30 yards west on Hollywood Blvd. from the fabled Vine St. intersection, in a once historic bar: "The Library". Shooting right before me was a comic I hadn't seen for 25 years, Houston's Steve Epstein. I'd suggested Steve to Adrian as Sam's cohort. Eppy continues the stand-up legacy in several social media groups that celebrate the Kinison â€" Bill Hicks-Houston-Hollywood connection. In between set-ups, I greeted Steve with gifts and we remembered our late pal wistfully. Then, it was my turn under those hot lights and the damn camera's unflinching eye. After all, this IS show biz! Boy, oh boy, oh boy: my last role in a movie, and I actually get to play myself! (Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up!) Truth be known, kindly/director Adrian, his lighting director, and his expert make-up artist actually transformed me from an old & weary touring pro. I've never been that good looking in my life, and I'll never be that good looking again. Thanks everyone! Al's on set photos were quite snazzy, and Adrian really delivered on the poster and book cover shots.
 article about I AM Sam Kinison
Photo by Adrian Buitenhuis

 article about I AM Sam Kinison
Photo by Adrian Buitenhuis

 article about I AM Sam Kinison
Photo by Adrian Buitenhuis

I told him then; he looked like a much taller Leonard DiCaprio, and should move to L.A. quickly. He said the Canadian equivalent of "aw shucks!" Turns out, that day our esteemed director asked me so much and so many things in that 2 hour on camera interview, I can barely remember saying what is in included his movie. But, I feel that I tried to do Sam, and our stand-up truth, justice. (BTW, I'm still waiting to see my rough footage!) And, next this Cannuck movie-ist person sprung his trap.

Two days later, still giddy from being a movie star (hardly) for ONE whole day, I received an email from the lovely Kea Barker @ Network Entertainment, asking me to sign a completely different appearance waiver, just in case some animated sequences might be used. Unwittingly, I cheerfully agreed and signed, not actually understanding what it all meant. Later, I would meet her at the movie premier.

Three months pass, and I'd sent Adrian some photos I collected with Sam. He asked me for some more from earlier. Sending them, I focused on some writing and media chores. Two more months pass, and I get a text from Adrian asking me if I thought it'd be a good idea to have the movie premier at The Comedy Store, my home club. That's where I became a man as a stand-up! I loved it, and gave him the right guy's name to arrange it.
 article about I AM Sam Kinison

Next month the lovely Kea asked if I would appear at the premier as the guest of the director. I agreed. Then, the week of the premier, Monsieur Director called me to ask if I thought my comic pal, who took those pictures at my shooting, Al Bahmani, would be a good choice to moderate the Q & A session, after the screening. I told him I loved his choice and put them in touch to negotiate. I invited my producer, D.C. Torgerson and four comic pals from the Store who had all worked with me, to be my guests. Then Adrian hired Al to host and moderate the Q & A session later. Now, I'm getting excited!
 article about I AM Sam Kinison

Pearl Harbor Day was picked to be the date of Derik & Adrian's movie premier. (Canadians?? Sometimes, they just don't get it! Eh?) Immediately on entering The World Famous Comedy Store, I was greeted personally by Ms. Kea Barker, who had my party seated, right after I was told to sign a flock of the movie posters as prizes. (Me??) As I joined my guests, I discovered that we were seated in Booth #1 in The Mainroom! This was where we had traditionally seated the most VIP-ness. I'm complimented by her kind gesture, and will never forget it. I was also delighted to assist in bringing another first to my birth-club, The Comedy Store. This was the first movie premier to be held there, in its storied 46 year history. Al and his beauteous date joined us, as it was now picture taking time. More photographers buzzed around than at Justin Beiber's bris. Our amiable doormen happened to place a once famous, older porn star and his ladies in a floor table right in front of us. Here's when I got off some of my best lines of the night. I leaned into my guests, knowing they knew who he was, and told them: "He was a friend of Sam's. That's Ron Jeremy, the porno star. Hey, don't shake Jeremy's hand! Don't shake his hand! We KNOW WHERE it's been!" Made our table rock. Then, I quipped: "Ron Jeremy! Wow! He's sitting just 6 penis-lengths away from us! (Held my hands about a foot apart) ...HIS lengths!!" We all laughed again. Now, I'm ready for the movie!

Intro-ing the film was the mighty Derik Murray, whose string of marvels includes bios of: Chris Farley, JFK Jr., Bruce Lee, Steve McQueen, Evel Knievel, and Johnny Cash. And Jon Slusser pithily annotated the profanity issue, as a key obstruction. Both had congratulated me, and told me that I did a great job. When I grow up, I want to learn to dress just like them!

It was like homecoming week for me. As Adrian's opening credits rolled, I remembered the hundreds of times I'd been on that very stage. I thought of all my MC-ing and hosting and growing in this room before, during, and after the great comedy strike in 1980. I was lucky enough to be in a medieval improv scene with Sir Robin Williams as his page-errant multiple times. I had shared it with fellow stand-ups Richard Pryor, and Rodney Dangerfield, and Andy Kaufman, as the host/MC. Kinison, Andy Garcia, Bill Hicks and I (and a dozen more familiar names) were all learning to improvise for laughs here!

I remembered the scores of lessons I'd absorbed onstage here, that got me hired repeatedly as a stand-up. I realized that after thirty-five years as a touring comic, using those skills, I had been given this wonderful gift to return to my home stage, and actually see, in a stand-up movie, me play me! (And, I'm pretty sure, at 24 minutes into the movie, I got a laugh) "What a long, strange (and funny) trip, it's been!"

So, as the movie kept going, I was happy to see it all, including a Sam video from my collection, and a marquee listing both of us, in the Mainroom show. Then I suddenly appeared onscreen! I have always been a live performer, not a film or media guy. So, when I saw my first huge close-up, I just wasn't ready for it. Seeing my head 30 feet wide and twenty-five feet tall, actually scared me. My real head is big enough already. I don't want it any bigger! I have enough trouble with this big head, and if it got any bigger, it would just get me in more trouble. And the weird thoughts that big head would have. Who wants that? I wanted to rush from the room and get sick! I didn't like it one bit!

Then, Adrian's ambush hit me! He had cartoon-ized a scene (animated) with Sam and I in the Comedy Store rear parking lot! Adrian used a picture of me from 1978 as a guide. OMG, My cartoon had red shoes! I was transfixed and frozen in place. It was like a lifelong dream come true for me. Me and my red shoes were in a f***ing cartoon!
 article about I AM Sam Kinison
By Jester Coyote Animation

 article about I AM Sam Kinison
By Jester Coyote Animation

 article about I AM Sam Kinison
By Jester Joker Animation

(Just like Batman, Spiderman, and UnderDog! That's like saying I rode with Jesse James. Thanks for the street cred. Be still, my heart! Wow, I'm immortal now! Damn, my red shoes can FLY!) I loved it! A week later, Al pointed out to me that a long shot of Sam and I was included on the movie poster, just under his left hand. (Eureka!) The animation was created by Brad Gibson and his team from Jester Coyote Animation in Vancouver. (Whom I will immediately offer to sponsor for American citizenship, if they so desire!)

 article about I AM Sam Kinison
By Jester Joker Animation


In the Q & A session after the screening, featuring some lively panelists and a few wacky questions, Al Bahmani moderated his butt off and performed admirably. (Did Corey regret his times with Sam?) (Where were Carl, Alan, and Malika?) (Were his outlaw pals jealous, or disgusted?) (WAS Sam's ghost in the room?) (Is Sam coming back?)
 article about I AM Sam Kinison

Using my video, three shots of comments, our Mainroom marquee, two cartoons, screen credit, the movie poster, and add the premier, it meant a lot to me. These ten items made all my efforts absolutely worth it. (Despite waiting to see my rough footage!) My endless thanks for being included in this flick to: Derik, Adrian, Kea, Joey, and Brad for all of the thrills. (And to Al for the on set photos!)

So, that's MY making of. We can still hear Sam SCREAM! I really enjoyed Adrian's movie. It evoked my laughs, my joy, and my regrets that Sam didn't get to do his second thousand shows. Or his third thousand! What a sight to see that would have been. If you think you know & love him, watch "I AM Sam Kinison!" then, see inside him! RIP Sam, you crazy son of a bitch!

Lue Deck
The Comic in Red Shoes






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