Monday, June 23, 2008

Sacrilegious Satirist Ceases

Knew it right away, before I heard it officially, because some things you just sense. Someone on my clock radio mentioned something about comedian George Carlin this morning at about 7, and somehow I knew that could only mean one thing: the man was dead.

Got to work and hit The Times website for the obit, then Wikipedia...

Growing up in NYC, Harlem, Carlin wanted to be Danny Kaye, the "rubber-faced" film star. Carlin had a plan to become real funny in radio, then the movies would surely call. Instead broke into comedy on television. Went on Carson, Sullivan, wore a suit, even had a recurring role on a sitcom (That Girl)! Played the mainstream game, but ultimately hated it. Reinvented himself in a way. Ditched the suit, wore what he wore in real life, and found his true comedic calling.

23 comedy albums. 14 HBO specials (his best work in my opinion). 3 bestselling books. Shit, even 23 episodes of his early 1990s Fox sitcom where he played a New York cab driver! Rated 2nd-best standup comic of all time, behind only Richard Pryor and just ahead of Lenny Bruce, by Comedy Central, the final authority on all matters mirthful. 1st person to host Saturday Night Live.

But of all the numbers, Carlin's legacy will undoubtedly be shaped by those 7 dirty words -- Shit, Piss, Fuck, Cunt, Cocksucker, Motherfucker and Tits -- the Heavy Seven, as he called them in the original routine that became a moral outrage before taking on new life as a landmark Supreme Court case relating to freedom of speech and obscenity -- the intersection where Carlin did his best work.

As a keen word-watcher Carlin would have been amused at some of the adjectives used today to describe his comedy; they ranged from the medical-sounding "Splenetic" to old standbys like "Irreverant" "Acerbic" and "Acid-Tongued."

Actually the craziest thing I read about Carlin all morning was on the Entertainment Tonight link I followed from Wikipedia: "ET breaks the news that comedian George Carlin has died from heart failure." Just say the guy is dead, stop with all the "breaks the news" bullshit. A little respect for a guy who hated people who for whatever reason corrupt the language for their own selfish ends. That's why in his best routines his words are like finely honed spears that he uses to demolish the hypocrisy of everyday modern life, and it's why as long as people put the words funny and guy together, the name George Carlin will come up first in a lot of places.

Just a few days ago he was named as the next recipient of the Mark Twain Award, which is one of those deals where you go to Washington and there's kind of a retrospective of your work and people roast you in a very PBS kind of way. I think it would have been cool to see how Carlin took to being honored like that. One thing's certain: Carlin reads just as funny on the page as he does from a stage, which is something else he has in common with Twain.

Some favorite Carlin:
"Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that."

"Always do whatever's next."

"I would never want to be a member of a group whose symbol is a guy nailed to two pieces of wood."

"If God had intended us not to masturbate, he would've made our arms shorter."

"I think this species had great, great promise, with this great upper brain that we have, and I think we squandered it on God and Mammon. And I think this culture of ours has such promise, with the promise of real, true freedom, and then everyone has been shackled by ownership and acquisition and status and power."

"When you're born you get a ticket to the freak show. When you're born in America, you get a front row seat."

"I think we're already circling the drain as a species, and I'd love to see the circles get a little faster and a little shorter."

"I don't have pet peeves, I have major psychotic hatreds."

"How come when it us it's an abortion, and when it's a chicken it's an omelet."

"People who go to Las Vegas, you've got to question their fucking intellect to start with. Traveling hundreds and thousands of miles to essentially give your money away to a large corporation is kind of fucking moronic."

"I look at it this way. For centuries now, man has done everything he can to destroy, defile and interfere with nature: clear-cutting forests, strip-mining mountains, poisoning the atmosphere, over-fishing the oceans, polluting the rivers and lakes, destroying wetlands and aquifers... So when nature strikes back and smacks him on the head and kicks him in the nuts, I enjoy that. I have absolutely no sympathy for human behavior whatsoever. None. And no matter what kind of problem humans are facing, whether it's natural or man-made, I always hope it gets worse."

"If you think there's a solution, you're part of the problem."

"There is no hope because we're locked in by commerce. The whole idea of goods and possessions has completely corrupted the human experience, along with religion, which I think limits the intellect."

"There are some two-way words, like it's okay for Curt Gowdy to say, 'Roberto Clemente has two balls on him.' But he can't say, 'I think he hurt his balls on that play, Tony, don't you? He's holding them. He must have hurt them, by God.' And the other two-way word that goes with that one is prick. It's okay if it happens to your finger. Yes, you can prick your finger, but don't finger your prick. No, no."

"I don't have hobbies; hobbies cost money. Interests are quite free."

1 comment:

jimithegreek said...

Another great one gone