Bye, George

I Used To Be Irish Catholic


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This almost-gentle dissection of the comic's religious roots struck a chord with me, a Roman Catholic kid who had spent his elementary school years attending St. William The Abbot catholic school in Seaford, New York. Carlin's routine helped give me the courage to face that nagging feeling I kept having that the adults were all lying to me about this whole religion thing.


Flying On The Airlines


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Carlin divided the world into two halves: the big world, the focus of his "serious" political and social commentary, and the little world, comprised of those small moments we all share. One suck small moment: flying on the airlines. Carlin talked about the airlines periodically throughout his career, but distilled his thoughts down to one perfect airline bit for his 1992 special Jammin' In New York. That special, Carlin's '90s comeback after a decade of health troubles and addiction recovery, debuted the comedian's more angry stage persona (an act he rode to the end). Jammin' In New York is gold from start to finish.


Seven Words You Can't Say On Television


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Carlin's Hamlet. A bit so obvious it took a genius to pull it off, Carlin tweaked the Seven Words throughout his career — adding to (and sometimes subtracting from) the list year after year. I saw Carlin perform twice in the late '90s— at Bally's in Las Vegas and at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater — and both shows contained some variation on the Seven Words. At the Ruth Eckerd show, I bought a poster of 2400 or so obscene words and phrases as compiled by George Carlin. I still have it and consult it for inspiration more frequently than my mother would like.


Carlin on Driving


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I had to include some of Carlin's material on driving, if for no other reason than I say "Cops didn't see it, I didn't do it. I'm gone!" at least twice a day.


The Hippy-Dippy Weather Man


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What Carlin list would be complete without a visit from Al Sleet, everyone's favorite weatherman? Certainly not this one. In fact, here's a second Al Sleet clip, this time from a 1966 Tonight Show appearance. Note that Johnny almost falls out of his chair.


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And, finally, a bonus clip. Here's Carlin on death:


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Have fun with The Big Electron, George. The world is a less interesting place without you in it.


(Photo Credit: Point-Shoot-Edit)

When I heard the news this morning that comedian George Carlin had died yesterday at the age of 71 (not bad for a guy with long-term heart problems and a love of cocaine), I was immediately overcome by the urge to stage my own all-day Carlin Comedy Festival. Alas, Carlin's death has not yet been made a national holiday, so I am instead at my desk attempting to complete this week's edition of Creative Loafing for your consumption on Wednesday. That's an odd conundrum for me, since though I wish I wasn't at work right now, I wouldn't be sitting here had I not encountered one of Carlin's HBO specials in the early 80s (when I was far too young and impressionable to be watching late-night cable TV).

The standard boiling-down of Carlin's career is as follows: Straight-laced nightclub comic transitions to counterculture icon after seeing Lenny Bruce perform, writes "Seven Words You Can't Say on Television" and ends up the impetus for a Supreme Court case that resulted from its airing, performed varied acting duties (Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, The Prince of Tides and Mr. Conductor on TV's Shining Time Station among them), but remained a dedicated stand-up comic to the end. As of last weekend, Carlin was still performing.

Though true, this rundown largely misses the point for me. Before all else, George Carlin was a linguist and a truth-teller, combining these skills to surgically carve up sacred cows and everyday life alike. The love of language runs through Carlin's work — from stories of riding the NY subways as a kid listening to the multi-culti accents to his deconstruction of the evolution of the term "shell shock" into "post traumatic stress disorder" — and it was this love that most attracted me to his work. To my ear, Carlin's routines are more musical performance than stand-up comedy routine.

So, in lieu of my Carlin Comedyfest, here (in no particular order) are 5 of my favorite Carlin moments from YouTube:

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