I woke up this morning to the news that George Carlin had passed away due to a heart attack. Now, in the current state of the world, this is but a ripple in the ocean to most, but to me it hit home.
I never met Carlin but I have a lot of memories of watching his comedy with my mom…and laughing hysterically. Carlin once said he always tried to figure out where the line was between comfortable and uncomfortable comedy and then deliberately crossed it whenever he could. And in doing so, he exposed a lot of the idiocy in this world.
He’s most famous for his decades old “The Seven Words You Can Never Say on TV” skit, but I think my favorite was his commentary on how as we travel through the world we leave a trail of stuff behind us. For those that can’t watch the video I linked to, here’s an excerpt:
“Sometimes you leave your house to go on vacation. And you gotta take some of your stuff with you. Gotta take about two big suitcases full of stuff, when you go on vacation. You gotta take a smaller version of your house. It’s the second version of your stuff. And you’re gonna fly all the way to Honolulu. Gonna go across the continent, across half an ocean to Honolulu. You get down to the hotel room in Honolulu and you open up your suitcase and you put away all your stuff.
“Here’s a place here, put a little bit of stuff there, put some stuff here, put some stuff–you put your stuff there, I’ll put some stuff–here’s another place for stuff, look at this, I’ll put some stuff here…” And even though you’re far away from home, you start to get used to it, you start to feel okay, because after all, you do have some of your stuff with you. That’s when your friend calls up from Maui, and says, “Hey, why don’tchya come over to Maui for the weekend and spend a couple of nights over here.”
Oh, no! Now what do I pack? Right, you’ve gotta pack an even SMALLER version of your stuff…”
Whether Carlin’s comedic observations tickled your funnybone or stroked your ire, because I’ll admit his comedy wasn’t for everyone, at least he made you think. He said things we were probably thinking but were too “P.C.” to say.
In fact, he was a big fan of the freedom of speech and even took his case to the Supreme Court, when he was arrested for “using indecent language in front of wheelchair-bound children” during a show in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Unfortunately, the S.C. ruled that the FCC had the power to prohibit stations from airing profanities when children may be able to hear them. Even today, you still can’t say those seven words on broadcast network TV. Thank goodness for cable, eh?
The same year he fought the FCC, he hosted the first episode of the landmark show, “Saturday Night Live,” which pushed a lot of boundaries on what you could say and do on TV.
Ironically, The Kennedy Center announced five days ago that Carlin was to be awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. It’s one of the highest honors one can bestow upon a performer in the arts.
In response, according to the press release I received, Carlin responded, “Thank you Mr. Twain. Have your people call my people.”
If you’ve never really exposed yourself to his comic genius, I’m sure HBO will be trotting out a stream of his old TV specials in the next month or so. Or hunt down more clips on YouTube. Like him or hate him, a lot of things he had to say made sense. And made me laugh.
How about you?
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I heard about it this morning too. I always thought his observations about life were funny. Thank goodness for Youtube to be able to see his “stuff”
I loved all his stuff, but the routine that always stuck with me was one I first heard as a young teenager about kids being punished by being sent to their rooms…where ALL there stuff was; TV, stereo, comic books, etc.
What a loss. Keep ’em laughing wherever you are, Mr. Carlin.