Would Sam Kinison survive today?

We live in an era where saying the wrong thing about race or sexuality will get you shunned and fired or forced to resign. How we are supposed to define freedom of speech when those who offend are made to pay a price is beyond me. Whatever happened to “I hate what you say but I’ll defend your right to say it”? I say if you are offended by [Imus, Belling, Limbaugh, etc] turn the damn station off.

Which brings me to Sam Kinison. In the mid-late 80’s he had a popular act that included Misogyny, racism, and a huge dose of homophobia. There were protests over him, but he was still very successful up until his death. He sold albums and appeared on network television and in movies.

But that was 15+ years ago

My question for debate is, would a Sam Kinison today get away with it? Could such an act be successful in todays politically correct mores?

It helped that Kinnison was a great deal funnier than Andrew Dice Clay.

His personality also more likeable than Clays regardless if you cared for the material or not.

I was going to include Dice in the OP, but I’ve noticed that he’s going for a come back, so we’ll just wait and see on him!

There are plenty of outrageous comedians. Just listen to a comedy channel on satellite radio. Or tune into I-Tunes radio and the various comedy programming featured therein. My lab listens to them on our work computers. “Nappy-headed hos” wouldn’t even raise an eyebrow on those stations.

Comedians aren’t going extinct. There will always be a market for offensive humor. You may have to pay for it out of pocket, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find it.

Why, oh why, do people confuse access to the public airwaves with freedom of speech?

If Imus wants to exercise his freedom of speech, he can do his routine over Internet radio, or on videos that he uploads to YouTube. He can say whatever he wants. Nobody’s stopping him.

The First Amendment says nothing about access to the public airwaves. I don’t have a broadcast radio show, and I wouldn’t know how to go about getting one. How about you? Does this mean we’ve been deprived of our right to free speech? No, it doesn’t.

Somebody please remind me of Sam Kinison’s racism? I’m drawing a blank.

Sam Kinison wasn’t any worse than any of the comedians on cable now.

Standup comedy is very different from radio. And ultimately, Imus got in trouble because he didn’t make anybody laugh with that comment. You can say things much worse than what he said if you make people laugh - but people got the impression, rightly or wrongly, that he meant what he said.

You are still free to say anything you like as long as you are willing to take the consequences.

The thing about comedians is that they really ought to be funny. So many are trying to rely on the objectionable language for humor. It just ain’t there in the words.

Freedom of speech is far more likely to get reigned in by those defending Imus than by those saying his firing was peachy, and if you really consider this a free speech issue (It’s not), then why wouldn’t you be concerned about his employer’s right to free speech? If anyone attempts to actually create laws preventing Imus from speaking, I’ll happily join in with those who tell them that that’s a screwed up idea, as then it actually will be an attempt to influence free speech. In the meantime, this is simply an asshole being fired by an employer who thinks that he’s crossed some line into territory that will actually harm them, either by reputation, financially, or both. Imus is perfectly free to continue to insult people as often as he wishes. He’ll just now have to do it on someone else’s dime (or his own), much like the rest of us.

As for the OP, do you have any cites of something that Kinison said, directed at a similar target, so we can answer it? He was quite rude, but I don’t recall anything that was as bad as what Imus said, directed towards a specific group of individuals who had nothing to do with him. The things I remember were either overly broad generalizations, or targetted at public figures, women in his life, etc.

That’s the great thing about it. People do have freedom of speech and they can say what they want as long as it doesn’t break laws. Just like people have a right not to like it and a right to voice that opinion as well.

I really, really liked Kinison. I think I have all of his albums. I once had the pleasure of seeing him appear live and laughed until I cried. That said, many people found his stuff deeply offensive, and I can see why. But hey, it’s a free country - if you don’t want to hear it, don’t buy his stuff.

He was accused of racism, I think, for his “little Haji” routine, about rounding up starving Ethiopians “to take them where the FOOD is.” I can’t remember anything else he said that was on the level of “nappy-headed hos.”

Kinison’s stablest TV gig was as a standup on Saturday Night Live the first season Lorne Michaels came back–and that gig lasted six weeks. The guest star gigs, while numerous, weren’t exactly steady.

Imus had his MSNBC gig for nine years and I forget how long on Good Morning America, not to mention nearly 40 continuous years on the radio.

I don’t think Kinison was being held to a lower standard than Imus, or that he evaded paying a price for edgy material.

Humor - even insulting, racist or sexist humor - isn’t the same as just plain insults. And Imus seems to have been heavily into insults for insults sake.

Sam made quite a few slurs against Asians, especially Koreans and Vietnamese, and some against blacks.

His act aslo was shown on network television, not just cable or subscription radio like others have contended about current performers. And, unlike the other comedians that have been refered to (but not identified by name :rolleyes: ) he was successful dollarwise.

Stick to the question, please: Would kinison get away with it today?

Absolutely. He’d have people who refused to listen to him, outlets that wouldn’t hire him, people who would protest him, and people who wouldn’t advertise with the outlets who did. Just like he did back then.

You’ll note that so far his insults have been very broad generalizations, not targetted at a group of 10 individuals who he knew nothing about.

As for sticking to the questions, we have, but you’ve ignored the responses to some of them. One of your questions was

If it was rhetorical, then showing that it wasn’t applicable (and it wasn’t) was certainly standard for GD. If it wasn’t rhetorical, then we’ve all been “sticking to the question.”

It would be really helpful if you or somebody else would provide some more examples of really objectionable things Kinison said. The Ethiopian thing is mean but I don’t think it’s racist.

Kinison WOULD get away with it today because he was funny - just like I think Bill Hicks would have survived 2001-2004 despite the incredibly venomous things he said about the right wing. And despite what people say in the wake of the Imus and Michael Richards things, racism is not untouchable in comedy. I’d say it’s the opposite: race-based humor and stereotype-based humor is very popular right now. (See also Mencia, Carlos.) Lisa Lampanelli is probably making more money today than Kinison ever did, and her whole act is “I like to fuck black guys.”

The problem with Michael Richards was that he did not have a reputation as a racist or even as a standup comedian. Also he’s white and it was a direct insult. Chris Rock always says “WHITE PEOPLE ALWAYS” but he always adds in “oh no, not you white people, I like you, you come to my show.” Then “cracker ass cracker” and everybody laughs.

Limbaugh isn’t exactly being shunned and given that he’s living in a $24.2 million, 36,500 sq ft house, I don’t think he’s paid a price for anything he’s said.

Who besides Imus and maybe Bill Maher have been fired or hurt by anything they’ve said?

Some of his stuff is on YouTube and you can find his SNL appearances with google. Seemed tame to me. He apparently thinks everything is funnier if he yells it. Methinks that some of his “anti-marriage” stuff could’ve been controversial in the 80’s, but joking about ones failed marriages/affairs/etc. is a comedy staple nowadays.

And his Letterman appearance would’ve been funnier if he’d stopped pointing out how “crazy” he was.