Kinnison’s ‘Leader’ not all comedy; rates low lizards

By Emmett Overbey

Sam Kinison.

It’s nothing personal; I just never can seem to generate any measurable respect for a walking beer keg that wears a rasta hat and acts like Super Grover on peyote buttons.

Well, no matter what I think of him, he has a new comedy album out on Warner Brothers Records. It’s not all comedy, though.

“Leader of the Banned” contains about thirty minutes of stand-up, and then four songs. Both of these sections are subject to the same opinion: pretty mediocre, but with a few decent moments.

First of all, I’m not real clear on the necessity for “comedy albums,” but if that’s your thing, hey, who am I to criticize? Secondly, I just don’t know about Kinison. Then again, I like Sigue Sigue Sputnik. We’ve all got our reasons.

The album cover itself makes me a bit nervous. It features Kinison’s own rendition of that Jesus at the Last Supper painting, with Big Sam in place of Jesus and a bunch of well-endowed Frederick’s of Hollywood customers in place of the Disciples. That’s nice. Kinison used to be a preacher, though, so I guess it’s okay.

Now, the stand-up routine is actually unimpressive, especially for someone with Kinison’s notoriety. It’s got all the stand-up staples (lots of expletives, plenty of subversive-sexual-orientation jokes, AIDS jokes, Ayatollah jokes: it’s all here) BUT—and this is important—Kinison only does that annoying screaming thing two, maybe three times. That fact alone gets a thumbs-up from me.

The highlight of the routine comes as Kinison invites a handicapped individual on the stage. By the way, this was recorded in Las Vegas on the Jerry’s Kids Telethon weekend. Anyway, this funny (and drunk, as Kinison points out) wheelchair occupant starts viciously laying into Jerry Lewis. Really laying into him, colorfully. It’s a really funny and very unique bit. Too bad the best part of Kinison’s album came from one of Kinison’s guests.

Then there are the songs. Remember his “Wild Thing” rendition? It’s basically the same thing at work here. Sam and his “all-star band” maul AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell,” Cheap Trick’s “Gonna Raise Hell,” The Rolling Stones’ “Under My Thumb,” and Mountain’s “Mississippi Queen.” That last one, by the way, is re-written to effectively trounce Kinison’s former silicone plaything, Jessica Hahn.

If you really like Kinison, you’ll buy this anyway. Otherwise, think really, really hard about it. Once you’ve listened to the comedy part two or three times, it’ll be old, and you’ll be stuck with four rather pointless cover tunes.

If you find someone who already owns it, give it a listen if you can. The Jerry Lewis thing is really quite funny. Otherwise, “Leader of the Banned” shouldn’t be too high on your list of priorities.

My rating: No Lizards. (Mr. Doug Bady, the handicapped guy, gets three-and-a-half Lizards on his own.)