Kinison Takes a Second Look at His AIDS and Gay Humor

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Sam Kinison, whose shock-rock humor seems to have enraged gay and lesbian activists more than any other popular artist, says his comedy is misunderstood.

Kinison’s battle with the gay community began after he recorded some jokes about AIDS on his 1988 Warner Bros. album “Have You Seen Me Lately?” The jokes in question made light of the AIDS epidemic, depicting gays engaging in bestiality and necrophilia.

The backlash from the gay community was intense. Six gay, lesbian and AIDS activist coalitions protested the release of the album and pressured Kinison’s record company to put two warning labels on the album jacket and to include an AIDS awareness pamphlet with the record.


Fallout from this episode resurfaced last month after Elton John’s comments on the “International Rock Awards” broadcast.

Responding to John’s remarks, Kinison said:

“What Elton John said about me was way out of line. He never did his homework and he owes me an apology. Just because I do a few comedy bits about gay people, that does not mean I’m out there promoting some anti-gay cause. I’m a comedian and my comedy has never endorsed violence towards gays.”

Kinison, whose albums also include stinging barbs about drug addicts, God, alcoholics, rock stars, the elderly and the starving, defends his irreverent approach to humor.

“In the 1990s, it’s OK to do comedy about the Chernobyl disaster or the Space Shuttle blowing up,” Kinison said in a telephone interview. “It’s acceptable to ridicule the Pope or the President of the United States, but God forbid you do a joke . . . about gays. The gay community is the last sacred cow in this society.”

Regarding the controversy surrounding his AIDS jokes, Kinison now feels he showed poor judgment.

After the death of young AIDS victim Ryan White and learning that his best friend’s father contracted AIDS last year, Kinison says he now considers the AIDS epidemic too tragic to make light of.


Kinison has helped raise more than $500,000 to fight the disease by donating his services to the T.J. Martell Foundation, a Los Angeles-based organization that funds cancer and leukemia research.

“I don’t do jokes about AIDS or death anymore,” Kinison said. “Now I realize that I was pretty insensitive about AIDS, but back then I was honestly unaware. AIDS is a horrible disease and the people who catch it deserve compassion.”