Advertisement

Archive for Monday, June 23, 2008

Share your memories of George Carlin

Comedian mourned as counterculture hero

June 23, 2008

Advertisement

In this 1993 image originally released by Fox Broadcasting, comedian George Carlin is shown in a promotional photo for the Fox comedy, "The George Carlin Show." Carlin, 71, whose staunch defense of free speech in his most famous routine "Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television" led to a key Supreme Court ruling on obscenity, died Sunday June 22, 2008. He went into St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica on Sunday complaining of chest pain and died later that evening, said his publicist, Jeff Abraham.

In this 1993 image originally released by Fox Broadcasting, comedian George Carlin is shown in a promotional photo for the Fox comedy, "The George Carlin Show." Carlin, 71, whose staunch defense of free speech in his most famous routine "Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television" led to a key Supreme Court ruling on obscenity, died Sunday June 22, 2008. He went into St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica on Sunday complaining of chest pain and died later that evening, said his publicist, Jeff Abraham.

— Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television. Some People Are Stupid. Stuff. People I Can Do Without.

George Carlin, who died of heart failure Sunday at 71, leaves behind not only a series of memorable routines, but a legal legacy: His most celebrated monologue, a frantic, informed riff on those infamous seven words, led to a Supreme Court decision on broadcasting offensive language.

The counterculture hero's jokes also targeted things such as misplaced shame, religious hypocrisy and linguistic quirks - why, he once asked, do we drive on a parkway and park on a driveway?

Carlin, who had a history of heart trouble, went into St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica on Sunday afternoon complaining of chest pain and died later that evening, said his publicist, Jeff Abraham. He had performed as recently as last weekend at the Orleans Casino and Hotel in Las Vegas.

"He was a genius and I will miss him dearly," Jack Burns, who was the other half of a comedy duo with Carlin in the early 1960s, told The Associated Press.

The actor Ben Stiller called Carlin "a hugely influential force in stand-up comedy. He had an amazing mind, and his humor was brave, and always challenging us to look at ourselves and question our belief systems, while being incredibly entertaining. He was one of the greats."

Carlin constantly breached the accepted boundaries of comedy and language, particularly with his routine on the "Seven Words" - all of which are taboo on broadcast TV to this day.

When he uttered all seven at a show in Milwaukee in 1972, he was arrested on charges of disturbing the peace, freed on $150 bail and exonerated when a Wisconsin judge dismissed the case, saying it was indecent but citing free speech and the lack of any disturbance.

When the words were later played on a New York radio station, they resulted in a 1978 Supreme Court ruling upholding the government's authority to sanction stations for broadcasting offensive language during hours when children might be listening.

"So my name is a footnote in American legal history, which I'm perversely kind of proud of," he told The Associated Press earlier this year.

Despite his reputation as unapologetically irreverent, Carlin was a television staple through the decades, serving as host of the "Saturday Night Live" debut in 1975 - noting on his Web site that he was "loaded on cocaine all week long" - and appearing some 130 times on "The Tonight Show."

He produced 23 comedy albums, 14 HBO specials, three books, a few TV shows and appeared in several movies, from his own comedy specials to "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" in 1989 - a testament to his range from cerebral satire and cultural commentary to downright silliness (sometimes hitting all points in one stroke).

"Why do they lock gas station bathrooms?" he once mused. "Are they afraid someone will clean them?"

In one of his most famous routines, Carlin railed against euphemisms he said have become so widespread that no one can simply "die."

"'Older' sounds a little better than 'old,' doesn't it?," he said. "Sounds like it might even last a little longer. ... I'm getting old. And it's OK. Because thanks to our fear of death in this country I won't have to die - I'll 'pass away.' Or I'll 'expire,' like a magazine subscription. If it happens in the hospital they'll call it a 'terminal episode.' The insurance company will refer to it as 'negative patient care outcome.' And if it's the result of malpractice they'll say it was a 'therapeutic misadventure."'

Carlin won four Grammy Awards for best spoken comedy album and was nominated for five Emmys. On Tuesday, it was announced that Carlin was being awarded the 11th annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, which will be presented Nov. 10 in Washington and broadcast on PBS.

"Nobody was funnier than George Carlin," said Judd Apatow, director of recent hit comedies such as "Knocked Up" and "The 40-Year-Old Virgin." "I spent half my childhood in my room listening to his records experiencing pure joy. And he was as kind as he was funny."

Carlin started his career on the traditional nightclub circuit in a coat and tie, pairing with Burns to spoof TV game shows, news and movies. Perhaps in spite of the outlaw soul, "George was fairly conservative when I met him," said Burns, describing himself as the more left-leaning of the two. It was a degree of separation that would reverse when they came upon Lenny Bruce, the original shock comic, in the early '60s.

"We were working in Chicago, and we went to see Lenny, and we were both blown away," Burns said, recalling the moment as the beginning of the end for their collaboration if not their close friendship. "It was an epiphany for George. The comedy we were doing at the time wasn't exactly groundbreaking, and George knew then that he wanted to go in a different direction."

That direction would make Carlin as much a social commentator and philosopher as comedian, a position he would relish through the years.

"The whole problem with this idea of obscenity and indecency, and all of these things - bad language and whatever - it's all caused by one basic thing, and that is: religious superstition," Carlin told the AP in a 2004 interview. "There's an idea that the human body is somehow evil and bad and there are parts of it that are especially evil and bad, and we should be ashamed. Fear, guilt and shame are built into the attitude toward sex and the body. ... It's reflected in these prohibitions and these taboos that we have."

Carlin was born on May 12, 1937, and grew up in the Morningside Heights section of Manhattan, raised by a single mother. After dropping out of school in the ninth grade, he joined the Air Force in 1954. He received three court-martials and numerous disciplinary punishments, according to his official Web site.

While in the Air Force he started working as an off-base disc jockey at a radio station in Shreveport, La., and after receiving a general discharge in 1957, took an announcing job at WEZE in Boston.

"Fired after three months for driving mobile news van to New York to buy pot," his Web site says.

From there he went on to a job on the night shift as a deejay at a radio station in Fort Worth, Texas. Carlin also worked variety of temporary jobs, including carnival organist and marketing director for a peanut brittle.

In 1960, he left with $300 and Burns, a Texas radio buddy, for Hollywood to pursue a nightclub career as comedy team Burns & Carlin. His first break came just months later when the duo appeared on Jack Paar's "Tonight Show."

Carlin said he hoped to emulate his childhood hero, Danny Kaye, the kindly, rubber-faced comedian who ruled over the decade Carlin grew up in - the 1950s - with a clever but gentle humor reflective of the times.

It didn't work for him, and the pair broke up by 1962.

"I was doing superficial comedy entertaining people who didn't really care: Businessmen, people in nightclubs, conservative people. And I had been doing that for the better part of 10 years when it finally dawned on me that I was in the wrong place doing the wrong things for the wrong people," Carlin reflected recently as he prepared for his 14th HBO special, "It's Bad For Ya."

Eventually Carlin ditched the buttoned-up look for his trademark beard, ponytail and all-black attire.

But even with his decidedly adult-comedy bent, Carlin never lost his childlike sense of mischief, even voicing kid-friendly projects like episodes of the TV show "Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends" and the spacey Volkswagen bus Fillmore in the 2006 Pixar hit "Cars."

Carlin's first wife, Brenda, died in 1997. He is survived by wife Sally Wade; daughter Kelly Carlin McCall; son-in-law Bob McCall; brother Patrick Carlin; and sister-in-law Marlene Carlin.

Comments

The_Voice_of_Reason 6 years, 5 months ago

I guess Jesus needed a golfing partner... RIP George

Dixie Jones 6 years, 5 months ago

mine too bassett ,,,R.I.P George you will be greatly missed. you were the man...

Peaty Romano 6 years, 5 months ago

I was lucky enough to see him live. I've always enjoyed his comedy. My first memory was of his "FM & AM" album my brother owned. I would sneak it out and listen to it when no one was around. Anyone else remember albums and having to tape nickles on the arm? Anyway, RIP George you will be missed.

acg 6 years, 5 months ago

MD I still have an old Cosby album too. I'm not sure what the album title is, but it has his bit about Noah on it. Remember that? Lordy that was funny, still is today.This is the Lord, Noah.Riiiigggghhhtttt!

truthhurts 6 years, 5 months ago

Leftovers make you feel smart twice. When you put them in the fridge you think - hey I'm saving food.Two months later when you throw them away you think - hey I'm saving my life.

beatrice 6 years, 5 months ago

I remember Mr. Carlin being one of the first entertainers I ever heard call out religion and Christianity for its falseness. Thanks for the memories. BigPrune, he is in neither, since heaven and hell only exist in books. "Religion has convinced people that there's an invisible man:living in the sky, who watches everything you do every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a list of ten specific things he doesn't want you to do. And if you do any of these things, he will send you to a special place, of burning and fire and smoke and torture and anguish for you to live forever, and suffer and burn and scream until the end of time. But he loves you. He loves you and he needs money." -- George Carlin

BigPrune 6 years, 5 months ago

Did he go to heaven or is he in hell?

Kevin Sontag 6 years, 5 months ago

Haiku for You - very nice. You win two internets!I saw George when he did his show at the Lied Center about five or six years ago. Dude is one of the funniest persons to ever live, and he proved it night in, night out, touring the country ("You know me, if it's got a zip code, I'll f------ be there!") But the great thing is that George will never die. Oh sure, he might have "passed away" after a "terminal episode", but I and many other fans will be quoting him until we have our own "therapeutic misadventure". And in that way, George will live on.

chuckiej 6 years, 5 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

fu7il3 6 years, 5 months ago

"For years I asked God to do something about my noisy neighbor with the barking dog, Joe Pesci straightened that (BLEEP) out with one visit. It's amazing what you can accomplish with a simple baseball bat. "- on praying to Joe Pesci rather than to God.

alicenevada 6 years, 5 months ago

"Christ didn't come here to give us the willies..."Weatherman: "There's going to be a rain event this weekend"George: "I gotta get tickets to that!"Kumquats, Garbaaanzo beans and squash

napoleon969 6 years, 5 months ago

Richard Pryor had a heart attack so I had a heart attack. Richard had another heart attack so I had a second heart attack. Richard lit himself on fire; I said **** that, and had another heart attack.RIP George; you were one funny man.

lakotachick 6 years, 5 months ago

I actually remember seeing him for the first time on SNL in the late 70's as a kid! LOL I used to watch SNL when I was 8 or 9...(I was a strange little kid, I guess.) I used to listen to John Lennon at that age too...I will truly miss George Carlin....He was so intelligent and hilarious!I hope the link worksSorry, I couldn't pick just one video to post!

TheYetiSpeaks 6 years, 5 months ago

I never f---ed a "10", but one night I f---ed five "2's"....and I think that oughta count. It oughta go down in my record as a positive achievement.

Drew Alan 6 years, 5 months ago

Probably just because I'm young, but also possibly becuase I like really bad movies, I'll forever remember Carlin as Rufus from the Bill and Ted movies.Party on, Rufus.

acg 6 years, 5 months ago

George Carlin was the very first risque comic my parents ever let me watch. I loved him from the minute I saw him do 7 dirty words and always will. He had a way of doing things with his face and body that made his comedy even funnier. I cried a tear or two when I heard this morning that he had died. The world has lost a great talent, indeed. Joe be with you, George.

Chrissy Neibarger 6 years, 5 months ago

He was a legend and will be missed very much!I always have the "invisible man in the sky" skit on my mp3 player.

Bassetlover 6 years, 5 months ago

My favorite was his rant about our "stuff" and the things people do with their "stuff"......hilarious.

Haiku_for_You 6 years, 5 months ago

Seven dirty words:(bleep) (bleep) (bleep) (bleep) (bleep) (bleep) (bleep) Bad thoughts, no bad words.Forecast tonight: dark.Then continued mostly dark.Morning: scattered light.Occupation: foole.I throw in the final "e"just to piss them off.Goodbye, George Carlin.Your comedy will live on.Joe Pesci bless you.

Frederic Gutknecht IV 6 years, 5 months ago

I remember seeing him in old Hoch Auditorium...a friend threw a t-short at him. He acted like it was a bomb...not THE bomb.

Frederic Gutknecht IV 6 years, 5 months ago

t-shirt, perhaps?~) A t-short is an amusing gag gift, too, though...for one-legged men.

Kam_Fong_as_Chin_Ho 6 years, 5 months ago

"If we evolved from monkeys and apes, why are there still monkeys and apes?!" - George Carlin

LJWJohn 6 years, 5 months ago

Malcom....."one less hippie" how cruel to say at ones death! The hippies didn't damage America...Americans did! Ones who stereotype and make comments like yours are at the top of the list of those who are most certainly not helping things get any better, just causing more seperation!!!

Confrontation 6 years, 5 months ago

"The longer you listen to this abortion debate, the more you hear the phrase "sanctity of life," "sanctity of life." You believe in it? Personally, I think it's a bunch of [bad word meaning poop for the LJ-World censors]. I mean, life is sacred? Who said so? God? Hey, if you read history, you realize that God is one of the leading causes of death. "

Bone777 6 years, 5 months ago

George was alot funnier in his youth.As he got older, his politics got in the way of his humor. Wit replaced by anger...

beatrice 6 years, 5 months ago

More great quotes: "The very existence of flamethrowers proves that sometime, somewhere, someone said to themselves, "You know, I want to set those people over there on fire, but I'm just not close enough to get the job done.""I think I am, therefore, I am. I think.""What was the best thing before sliced bread?""If Helen Keller had psychic ability, would you say she had a fourth sense?""Soft rock music isn't rock, and it ain't music. It's just soft.""Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that."

jackpot 6 years, 5 months ago

Hey acg what's a cub id? The temp at the airport is 76. That's weird I don't know anyone that lives at the airport. George's two way words. Car wash from 1976. George was one of a kind.

riverdrifter 6 years, 5 months ago

Took me a while to find it, re Muhammad Ali refusing to be drafted:"He said, 'No, that's where I draw the line. I'll beat 'em up. But I don't want to kill 'em.' And the government said, 'Well, if you won't kill people, we won't let you beat 'em up."

Commenting has been disabled for this item.