Thou shalt laugh ... hysterically
"Funny is funny," says comedian and actor Sinbad. "I never looked at comedians as clean or dirty. I saw them as masters of their craft."
The 55-year-old stand-up, aka David Adkins, is as influenced by Richard Pryor as he is by Bill Cosby.
"I also loved Redd Foxx, Jonathan Winters, Lenny Bruce and George Carlin," Sinbad says.
He made the decision to keep his comedy clean after his father — a preacher — attended one of his early performances.
"Most preachers' kids are crazy anyway," Sinbad says. "I was always trying to be the prodigal son. But my father knew what life was about. Comedy can be profound without being profane."
Sinbad will perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 11, at the Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater, 23 S. Central Ave., Medford.
When Sinbad started as a stand-up in 1983, other comedians were trying to imitate dirty comedy.
"They were cursing, but they weren't funny," Sinbad says. "They thought the curse word was the punch line."
He recalls listening to a Pryor record and hearing his parents, Donald and Louise Adkins, laughing in the next room.
"I like the controversial edge," Sinbad says. "I think people need to be pushed in their beliefs. It's the entertainer's job to hold up the mirror for audiences. We become too comfortable with our perspectives of life. Sometimes, we believe our views are the only right ones. Most of us don't remember what happened yesterday. We're too caught up living — just trying to make it through the day."
Sinbad has kept audiences laughing with his HBO specials: "Nothin' But the Funk" in 1998, "Son of a Preacher Man" in 1996, "Afros and Bellbottoms" in 1993 and "Brain Damaged" in 1991. His Comedy Central stand-up special, "Where U Been?" aired in February 2010.
Sinbad uses his humor to look at the tests and afflictions of daily life, especially relationships, and he nails the truth with wit and heart.
He's even written a book about relationships, "Sinbad's Guide to Life (Because I Know Everything)."
"What interests me are observations about relationships, or whatever turns you on," he says. "I got tired of hearing stupid ideas about relationships, so I wrote a book. We all knew when we dated or married the wrong person. Everyone told us. When it's over, we're in shock, and we say things like, 'It changed.' Nothing changed. It just didn't work. I read the book 'Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man.' If a woman did that, she'd be homeless."
Sinbad's also known for his starring roles in such movies as 1997's "Good Burger," 1996's "Jingle all the Way," with Arnold Schwarzenegger, James Belushi and the late Phil Hartman, and "First Kid," with Robert Guillaume; "Houseguest," also with Hartman, in 1995; and his 1991 debut role in "Necessary Roughness."
His annual HBO concert series, "Sinbad's '70s Soul Music Festival," earned awards from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for two consecutive years.
From '88 to '91, Sinbad starred in the NBC sitcom "A Different World," and his Fox show, "Sinbad," premiered in 1993. He's also made appearances on FX Networks' "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia."
"But stand-up is my main thing," Sinbad says. "It's made me who I am. Everything I am as an actor and entertainer came from stand-up. What makes comedy so beautiful is that while I may look like I'm crazy on stage, I know where the edge is and I'm not falling off."
He says everything he needed to know about performing comedy, he learned from playing basketball for the University of Denver.
"It can be fun, painful and engaging," Sinbad says. "You learn to deal with a bad audience and how to size people up. You learn to entertain, and sometimes you learn to wait your time. Your greatness is determined by how hard you work ... and there's less injuries in comedy."
Tickets to Sinbad's show at the Craterian cost $42, $45 and $48 and are available at the box office, 16 S. Bartlett St., Medford, and www.craterian.org or by calling 541-779-3000.