Monday, June 23, 2008

R.I.P. George Carlin

"That's my job - thinking up goofy shit. Coming back here every once in a while, letting you know what it is ... or reminding you of shit you already knew, but forgot to laugh at the first time."
Everyone thinks of the seven dirty words when they think of the late, great George Carlin. That's fine - it was a big deal. One of his albums was defended all the way to the Supreme Court. That's pretty fucking cool. As Carlin himself said, "my name is a footnote in American history, which I'm perversely kind of proud of."

Some people will remember the whimsical George Carlin. The charmingly funny stuff, or the goofy funny stuff.

Baseball and Football.

A Place for My Stuff.

Or they'll remember him for his brilliant skewering of the English language, like this routine on euphemisms.

But let's not forget that George Carlin was a bombthrower at his heart. "I think it's the duty of the comedian to find out where the line is drawn and cross it deliberately." His job was to challenge his audience and jar them out of their complacency. As soon as they got comfortable with who he was or what he was going to say, he knew it was time to shake up his routine.

Check out this routine from 1992.

His own audience starts booing him about two minutes into this. But by the end of the bit, they're all on their feet. It's an astonishing and ferocious performance. This is my favorite routine by Carlin, just because it makes me so damn uncomfortable.

Carlin dared the audience to look at the things all around them and realize how fucking ridiculous it all was. Sometimes they hated him for it, but he was just doing his job. There were nights when he was probably the only person in the room who knew it was his job. But he knew it, every day and every night.

For this reason alone, George Carlin is the greatest comedian I ever heard, and the world is a poorer place without him in it.
I don't know if George is up in heaven or not - maybe you have to believe in it before it believes in you - but I wish I could have seen that first conversation between him and god. He must have had the old guy spewing root beer out of his nose.

Good night, George Carlin. Thanks for everything.

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