Monday, June 23, 2008
“I think it’s the duty of the comedian to find out where the line is drawn and cross it deliberately.”
- George Carlin
Received a text message at 7:50 a.m. from Big Rick, my comedian friend. The message read, “The King is dead. There’s nothing funny today. George RIP.” At first I got excited and thought Bush bought the farm. Then I realized it was George Carlin and a TV report confirmed it.
Carlin was like the pope for many of us comics. He burst on the scene in the 1960s and 1970s, a time when experimentation on stage was the way you found your unique voice and persona. For Carlin, it was latching on to the counterculture movement and ridiculing authority. Later in his career he poked fun at the hippies and phony liberals as well as the heartless conservatives, idiotic rednecks and purveyors of religion, trashing them with acerbic verbal lashings they justly deserved. His wordplay and talent for scrutinizing idioms and colloquialisms was legendary. Carlin invented something that wasn’t there before – observational humor He explained the universe in a quirky but honest way and showed real intelligence and skill, making comedy a craft instead of goofy shtick. His “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television” is timeless and immortal. In his later career, Carlin took on the mantle of grouchy critic, skewering society and praying for doom and tragedy as a punishment for the human race’s stupidity. He exposed the hypocrisies in politics and religion, playing the part of the hermit and philosopher. Yet within the barbs remained a jokester and puckish figure whose job it was to tweak the king’s nose just to see the elites squirm.
A few years ago, I won tickets to see Carlin perform in Atlantic City. A local radio station held a contest where callers had to do a Carlin bit on the air. I did Carlin’s early routine “Join the Book Club” and made the DJ laugh. I got the tickets and saw Carlin on stage. It was a great night of comedy and I’ll never forget watching him perform, this bald, bearded old man wearing all black, ripping the shit out of everything America held sacred and bashing our egos from our collective psyche. He was a comic, social critic and philosopher and a performer that comes along once in a lifetime and leaves an indelible mark behind him, inspiring countless others to view the world with skepticism and humor.