I haven’t blogged anything about George Carlin’s demise because, really, where do I get off? Arguably the greatest comedian of a generation, and easily the most professional stand-up since the days of Vaudeville.
I mean, he did (by my count) 12 HBO specials in the past 30 years, with virtually all new material every special. 12-18 hours may not seem like a lot, but find a comedian who’s done more. And Carlin’s TV credits go back over ten years further, and I’m pretty sure that was after a decade or more of uncredited work.
The dude was polished. Even if you didn’t like the material, his style was undeniable.
And yet, it can be hard to watch a lot of those shows. The older he got, the angrier he got. The gentler parts of his routines vanished over the years.
I suppose some would argue that his political statements were what made him “important”, insofar as he was, but it seems to me he was at his most brilliant in his whimsical and absurd moments. And when he summed something up about human experience, like the stuff/shit routine and “Everyone driving slower than you is an asshole. Everyone driving faster is a maniac” bit. When he brought us together, in other words.
His political statements–well, to be fair, his most overtly political statements were deliberately crude and dismissive. He saw himself as above those things.
But his socio-political “arguments”, if you want to call them that, were crude in the sense of being at the level of an angry 13-year-old. The perfect role for him was as Cardinal Glick in Kevin Smith’s Dogma, since the “arguments” in that movie are pretty much at the same place. (And I love that movie, but much like a Carlin routine, it’s best when it’s making with the funny, and very weak when the philosophy comes out.)
Even then, though, his delivery was brilliant. And if you agreed with him (see clap humor), his show was great. He was better–and more subversive–than both, because he phrased things in such a way that you often wanted to agree with him.
Another funny thing about Carlin was that, while liberals are often accused of loving Mankind and hating people, Carlin seemed to hate Mankind and love people. That is, his schtick–particularly in the last years–was geared toward how horrible Man was, yet in describing his travels he had nothing but praise for the people he met (cf. Michael Moore).
Regardless of your political orientation, it’s hard to deny the man’s craftsmanship and dedication. The only comparable figure I can think of is the late Johnny Carson–and he was on hundreds of times a year for decades, and never had any forbidden words to fall back on.
I won’t say “Rest In Peace” because that would’ve just pissed him off. And I sure won’t make any comments about heaven. I’ll just say, “Hey, how’s death working out for you?”
Shame he can’t answer. I’m sure it’d be hilarious.