Sam Kinison died 19 years ago yesterday, and the world lost one of the greatest stand-up comedians to ever grace the stage. I never met the man, and wasn’t quite old enough to get to see him perform live, but I loved his HBO Specials, appearances on Letterman, and especially his performances on The Howard Stern Show. I even watched all seven episodes of the terrible sitcom he was in!

Sadly, all too many comedians and comedy fans seem to have forgotten his contributions to the art form. Most comedians know (or should know) that when you stop caring about what the audience thinks, you gain freedom on stage, and that freedom lets you become far funnier than you can be when you’re stuck in a mindset of “I have to make these people laugh.” I can’t think of a better example of a comedian that had this freedom on stage than Sam Kinison. Here’s his first performance on David Letterman, in which he breaks pretty much every rule for performing on a show of this type.

I have been lucky enough to meet and perform with many of his contemporaries, and it seems that all who knew him agree on two things. He was the best friend you could have, and he was the worst friend you could have. Which pretty much seems like the Sam Kinison I admired as an adolescent. Someday his story will be a great movie- until that day, go look him up on YouTube and watch or re-watch some old tape of Sam. And if you don’t laugh when watching him, we can’t be friends.