In case you haven’t heard yet, George Carlin died last night at age 71. I found out from two different friends texting me around midnight with the news. It’s especially upsetting for me since I have been such a huge fan of Carlins for most of my life. I remember stumbling across his ‘Jammin in New York’ HBO special 15 years ago and becoming hooked. It wasn’t just the lure of the language, it was the poignant, sharp social commentary that drew me to him. Being an impressionable young kid, he was like the crazy, yet brilliant, uncle I never had. Years later, I found out that my grandfather, who died when I was 3, was a huge fan of Carlin. That created a special bond between myself and a grandfather I didn’t get a chance to know.
He’s in the discussion of greatest comedian ever, along w/ richard pryor and lenny bruce. Anytime you can lay that claim, you’ve had a good run. Though I’m not sure that would matter to Carlin. What I admired most about him was the fact that he always remained sharp and relevant. So many people tend to latch onto what they know and clutch that to the bitter end. Not Carlin. In fact, he already had a successful career in the 60’s doing clean, duo based comedy w/ Jack Burns. Eventually, he decided he didn’t like that anymore and completely reinventing himself as a raging hipster comedian, choosing to “work blue“. That gave rise to his now famous “Seven Words” skit.
However, that doesn’t do him justice. His later material on religion, global politics, abortion, race and sexual orientation teetered the line between offensive and brilliant. He felt that we think through language and as soon as you start to constrain language, you constraint thought as well.
His take on the 10 commandments exemplifies his smart and to the point writing ( NSFW ):
If you really want to get your mind blown and see an example of just how ahead of the times he was, check out his skit on (audio NSFW) airport security. Keep in mind that this was years before 9-11. Strangely haunting, if you ask me.
What’s even more haunting was the fact that a few weeks ago, I was excited to hear that he would be coming to Chicago in the fall. I purchased 5 tickets to see him on October 10th and was able to get a bunch of friends to come with me. Most had never even seen his stand up on HBO, let alone live. However, it would be my 3rd time seeing him live.
Now, I’ll just have to remember the previous two times, as we have lost not only comedic icon, but what seems like a great friend as well.
Joe bless you, George, wherever you are (NSFW):