Tuesday, June 24, 2008

George Carlin (1937-2008)

EAST BRUNSWICK, N.J. - I was still up last night when I got a NYTimes alert about George Carlin's death from heart failure at the age of 71. My first reaction? "Holy shit!" I might as well have added "piss," "fuck," "cunt," "cocksucker," "motherfucker," "tits" and whatever dirty words Carlin decided to add to that initial seven in later shows.

What else to say about a comedy legend who rarely ever stooped to empty cynicism; who married keen observation and clever wordplay with his own intelligent, freethinking, sharply critical (curmudgeonly?) worldview; and who, at his best, had something interesting, insightful and gutbusting to say about the universal subjects---the absurdities of the English language, the hypocrisies of religion, or the foibles of our modern human species, for instance? Well, certainly not banalities like "Rest in peace" or "May he look down at us all"---because that's the kind of bullshit he railed against.

The man, however, was my introduction to the potential revelations of great stand-up comedy; I mean, for one thing, the man practically shaped my own skeptical views of religion (although no, I don't worship the sun and pray to Joe Pesci). So, yeah, I do consider him something of an important figure in my own artistic explorations.

And, as I was telling a friend, and fellow Carlin fan, earlier today, at least I got to see him live (sometime last year at the State Theatre in New Brunswick).

Anyway, here is one of my personal favorite routines of his: a brilliant deconstruction of the safety lecture that you always hear at the beginning of an airline flight. Of course, I was recently on a plane, and this routine was playing in my head every time I sat through one of those videos. (Warning: the audio/video sync is way off in the second part, so feel free to just listen to the audio.)

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