Sinbad is a comedian whose act is about energy. He confronts the audience and tells it as he sees it. His delivery has mastered a visceral side to comedy. He was one of the biggest stand-ups in the 1990s, and now, he remains a game changer.
The comedian was born and raised in Benton Harbor, Michigan. His given name is David Adkins. Originally, he aspired to be a professional basketball player. Adkins was on his path to do so playing for the University of Denver. A few weeks shy of graduating, he dropped out of college to serve in the US Air Force. From this, he was transferred to a base in Wichita, Kansas. Sinbad would joke later in his HBO special how there was nothing in the city including trees. “Birds are passing out because they don’t know where to land,” he riffed. The Air Force is actually where he would find comedy.
In 1981, Adkins tried out for an Air Force Talent Show. He went on to win several contests on base and to emcee other shows. At some point, he adopted the name Sinbad, the sailor from lore. He sited to Ebony Magazine in 1997, “He wasn’t the biggest guy, but he was clever and resourceful. He was a loner and lived life as a journey.” The name seems to fit, going from sleeping in his car to being one of the biggest comics.
His big break was on Star Search, a precursor today’s TV talent showcases where the audience decides if the performer moves on or not. This helped to get a role on A Different World, a Cosby spinoff from ‘87-’91, and it aided in attaining his HBO special: Brain Damaged and It Was Really Funny. The comedian’s popularity was rising fast.
By 1993, he had his own series, The Sinbad Show. Two years in a row, he won the NAACP image awards for Outstanding Variety Special/Series. The first win was in 1998 for Sinbad’s Summer Jam III: ’70s Soul Music Festival, and the following win for Sinbad’s Summer Jam IV: ’70s Soul Music Festival. All the while, he was making movies like Houseguest and Jingle All the Way. The comedian was at the top of the game.
By the early 2000s, Sinbad’s TV and film roles dramatically declined. However, he is still touring today. In 2010, he got a Comedy Central special, poignantly titled, Where U Been?. Sinbad used the hour to comically address fans who wondered what happened to the comic. While much speculation has gone into his appearances, his greatest strength has been taking the live stage.
Sinbad is a storyteller. His jokes are not so much about clever twists as much as they are about the goofy energy behind them. He is a big guy, and when he is on stage, he is loud and charismatic. His act has always been clean. In his 1992 Saturday Night Live monologue, he is a force to be reckon. He opened with saying how he had made it because he was on the famed show. The big entry was already getting laughs with the anticipation of what was to come.
The bigness that Sinbad can put out there is what sets him apart. He gets laughs because he plays from an over-the-top way that begs for an audience’s approval. He has earned enough approval to last.