Cribbing Stories from Real Life, Sinbad the Comic Sails to the Top

UPDATED 09/29/1986 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 09/29/1986 at 01:00 AM EDT

That old saw about ministers' children going bad certainly applies to David Atkins. Not only does the L.A. comic perform under the name Sinbad, but he also calls his wife Mrs. Bad, their 10-month-old daughter Baby Bad and his minister pop the Rev. Too Bad. All this Bad-mouthing has made Atkins a good bet for stardom on the nightclub circuit, where his improvisations have earned him opening spots for the Pointer Sisters and Kool and the Gang; he also debuted as a regular on the now defunct Redd Foxx show. That's impressive for a guy whose routines are squeaky clean and not Bad in the slightest. "I'm just being me," Atkins, 29, insists. "I think life is funny."

Raised in Benton Harbor, Mich., where his father, Donald, is a Baptist pastor, David showed early signs of becoming truly rotten: He was a pyromaniac, torching his mother's drapes as well as trash cans (to watch the bottles blow up). Later he decided to become a pro basketball star—he is 6'5"—but he found his calling in the Air Force when he won a talent contest. Inspired, he set out to get himself discharged by walking off duty in his underwear. "Just kick me out," he begged. "Let's work as a team." The Air Force obliged and in 1983 Atkins became an itinerant comic, eventually landing on TV's Star Search, winning seven times.

Sinbad is a teller of stories, usually shaggy ones, and he hates one-liners, but if his material comes from real life, his getups are from outer space: He used to work in gold-dyed hair and feather earrings. He once came on lugging a suitcase and asked the audience for a place to stay. These days he has fresh sources of material: his wife of 17 months, Meredith, 24, and their daughter. He claims strangers love the baby so much "they pass her around the supermarket and we can't find her." His success is no surprise. "It's always the goofy kid who goes on to do something great," Sinbad says. "There's some guy pumping gas right now and saying, 'I remember that Spielberg—boy, was he weird.' But I'm glad we have other kinds of people too. You wouldn't want somebody like me running the country."

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