Sunday, June 22, 2008
George Carlin (1937 - 2008)
Man. Carlin was one of my all-time favorite stand-up comedians, as I know he was for many people. I taped one of his HBO specials as a teenager, and watched it more times than I count. His material was good to brilliant, but his delivery was about as sharp as you can get, due to the speed, the faces, the vocal inflection, the shifts. There's a line attributed to both Bernard Shaw and Billy Wilder: "If you tell people the truth, make them laugh, or they'll kill you." Carlin often exemplified that. But even when he was being more silly than deep, he was damn funny. He had a long and impressive career, but boy, he will be missed.
Carlin has too many routines to post them all, but here are several. Feel free to link more. (Oh, needless to say, most of these routines are Not Safe for Work.)
We Like War:
Voting and Politicians:
A Place for my Stuff:
Baseball and Football:
Update: skippy and Jill of Brilliant at Breakfast have been doing roundups of the posts on Carlin. I appreciated the insight into how hard Carlin worked, and how kind he could be, from Louis C.K. and
the Sailor at VidiotSpeak. Here's a guy who could have ridden the nostalgia train, but instead constantly developed new material and seemed to get sharper as he got older. It would be really hard to over-praise Carlin's performance skills, his dedication and, well, courage. I agree with Mustang Bobby about Carlin working in the tradition of the Shakespearean Fool, telling truth to power but getting people to laugh at it. It's humor based on truth, and self-recognition, versus solely mocking other people. That is the real deal, it's hard to pull off, and that's why it's so damn obscenely gorgeous when someone nails it. As Steve Benen writes, "I’d seen plenty of stand-up, but I’d never seen someone make an audience think and laugh at the same time, about subjects most comedians wouldn’t dare touch."
Fresh Air did a good recap of past interviews with Carlin.
Blue Gal linked Carlin's very interesting "What I've Learned" piece for Esquire.
Meanwhile, I love Roy Edroso's closing lines: "Like Voltaire, Mencken, et alia, Carlin died out of the good graces of the bullshit merchants. I guess they knew he was driving away some of their customers."
You fucking got that right.
(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)