Sinbad: Going with his instincts

BALTIMORE — If you can’t figure out how to describe Sinbad’s type of stand-up comedy, don’t worry about it—neither can he. The longtime comedian and comic actor says he’s been trying to figure that out for years.

Born and raised as one of six kids to Martha and the Rev. Dr. Donald Adkins in Benton Harbor, Michigan, Sinbad–born David Adkins–says that he grew up in the golden age of TV. He watched and admired Robin Williams, Richard Pryor, Bill Cosby, Jonathan Winters, and Red Skelton. He wanted to be them all.

When Sinbad brings his act to Rams Head on Stage for two shows on December 27, fans shouldn’t have any expectations of what he’ll do–other than being funny of course. “I don’t know what it’s going to be. If you watch one of my shows, I’ve got a mix of everything. It just comes spontaneously,”  Sinbad says. “I don’t write everything down in totality. I’ll write a line like ‘Talk about what happened at Cracker Barrel. Talk about riding my bike.’ Then something happens on stage—that’s where the magic happens.”

This spontaneity has worked for him—in stand-up and acting. Although many may remember first seeing Sinbad perform on Star Search, he actually began performing while in the Air Force. After attending college at the University of Denver, Sinbad decided to join the Air Force, a decision that he wonders about today. “It was crazy because I had the least amount of discipline to start something like that. I thought I could play on the Air Force basketball team, then I could leave, and a pro team would pick me up,” he says. Then he planned on joining the Harlem Globetrotters, which would be his “in” to being funny in Hollywood.

When he realized the military was not for him, Sinbad began trying to get kicked out, though not before performing comedy in an Air Force talent show. While he says he won the competition, he soon was dismissed from the Air Force for parking his car backward across two spots. “They thought I was trying to be funny, so that was the last straw,” Sinbad recalls.

Besides performing comedy, Sinbad stars on the new Fox sitcom Rel. He describes his character as the dad who is always tough on his kids, but they know at the end of the day he will always have their backs. Like many things in his life, getting this role was, he says, an accident.

“I didn’t want to go back to TV and do a sitcom. I wanted to do something more like dramedies because I was tired of sitcoms,” Sinbad explains. His agent contacted him about the role, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to do it. Previously, he worked on programs such as The Redd Foxx Show, A Different World, and The Cosby Show. But the role and script kept coming back to him—a number of times. “I pray on things. I believe that if something keeps showing up, there must be a reason,” he says. He took the job and is glad he did. “It just happened to work out, and I’ve enjoyed it.”

While he jokes that he’s the “old man” on the set, it doesn’t bother him. He’s glad to have the chance to mentor younger people because it’s his chance to pay it forward. “I was mentored by Cosby, by Redd Foxx. I got the chance to meet Red Skelton early in my career. I talked to Lucy [Lucille Ball]. I got to touch the hem of the garment of some of the greatest ever. Red taught me how to do TV and to trust my instinct—and that it was okay to leave when I thought I could do something funnier,” says Sinbad. “I know that [being mentored] helped me when I was really lost. Now mentoring—that’s the natural flow of life if you look at it.”

After performing stand-up comedy for more than 35 years, Sinbad knows what it’s done for him. “It taught me to be fearless,” he says. And he believes he’s not even close to being finished. “I don’t think I’ve done anywhere near what I’m supposed to do in Hollywood.”

While neither Sinbad nor his audience will know what to expect from his upcoming shows, he guarantees one thing: “I will change your life. You need something fixed? Shout it out. I can fix it in 13 seconds,” he quips. “I have an answer for everything. Might not be the right one, but I got one!”

Sinbad performs at Rams Head on Stage on December 27. For more info, go to