George Carlin: R.I.P.

This one hits me pretty hard.

It was my dad who instilled in me a great love of comedians and their art.  For as different as our tastes were, perhaps the one thing that my father and I shared unconditionally were stand up comics.  For many years, that was our New Years Eve; watching HBO’s marathon of the great comics of the day; Robin Williams, Billy Crystal, and, at the very top of that list, was George Carlin.

I was exposed to Carlin’s work probably earlier than I should have been; I remember back in the eighties sliding the big black vinyl Toledo Window Box record out of its sheath and throwing it on the monstrosity of a record player that took up an entire wall of our living room.  I didn’t understand all of the humor back then, and I think that sometimes I just laughed because the audience was laughing, but even then Carlin’s humor still managed to hit more often than miss.

I don’t think you had to agree with his politics or his worldview in order to find him funny; in fact that was sort of a testament to the man’s craft that you could find some of the things based on their content morally wrong, or factually in error, but you still managed to laugh.  How else does a Christian like my father laugh so hard at a comedian that claims that “Religion is bullshit?”

It’s because Carlin was the total package.  He wielded the English Language like a weapon, and he had mastered the art of delivery.  You could line up ten thousand people and have them all repeat the same line, but it would be George Carlin that made it funny, that made you first crack a smile, then laugh, then start to lose control of your entire body until you thought that your lungs had exited through your throat while your bladder began sending your brain the same “Fuck you” message over and over again.  He knew when to be deadpan, and when to be emotional and it really did seem as though things that came out of his mouth were funny not because of what they were, but because he was the one that said them.

It was his vivacity on stage that made him seem eternal.  I’ve watched his hairline recede and the color shift from brown to gray, and eventually to white, but despite the fact that age shown plainly on his face, whenever he took the stage it was that energy that seemed to burst from him, pouring out of every orifice as though he was different from everyone else, that he was gifted with this unnatural internal engine that kept pumping long past when everyone else’s just sort of chugged along that gave him this sense of timelessness.  After a while you began to get the impression that he would sort of live forever.

After all, where would the world be if George Carlin didn’t surface every once in a while to flip us all the bird and tell us how bad we’re mucking up the works?

But I think it was his last HBO special that showed time catching up to him.  For me it was sad, and somewhat eerie, watching him perform a poem about modern times, and it’s supposed to have this kind of zip to it, this pop as he leaps from psycho-babble to techno-babble, and I’ve watched him do it before, but in that last special…  He just looked like an old man.

So, this one gets me pretty hard; but I think after watching that last HBO special, I was sort of expecting it.  Time finally caught up with the timeless, and George Carlin passed away due to heart failure.

I’m thirty, and for all the years in my life that I can remember, Carlin has found one way or another to make me laugh.  That’s the kind of gift that is rare, and offered by few, but for as much as he professed to not believe in mankind, he managed to bless it with this gift over and over again.

Thoughts and hopes to his surviving family, and to Mr. Carlin himself, well, I hope there is a heavenly CNN, and I hope it’s providing him with as much laughter as he provided us while he was still here.  I’ll leave you with perhaps one of his most famous routines, and, as a kid, one of the few routines I was able to understand in full and listen to without fear of my mom having a meltdown:

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2 Responses to “George Carlin: R.I.P.”

  1. terry says:

    The “stuff” routine is one of my favorites. He’s one of very few comics that can make me laugh so hard I cry 🙂

    Another sad day.

  2. Kevin says:

    Indeed, this one stung.

    The world has lost its favorite “Class Clown”…

    Like myself, how many of us, our personalities, our timing, delivery, our sense of humor could be attributed to George Carlin…

    For hours, I would sit listening to albums, practicing “those” voice, and memorizing the routines., and performing them in front of my friends, and family. They are priceless, timeless…

    Boy, could he make me laugh…and think!

    When my father passed away, five years ago…I sat down and made a list of those people that have influenced me – of course, my dad, but Carlin was right there…the master wordsmith…

    It sort of makes me smile…do you think George is sitting right next to the “BIG” guy, a nudging elbow to the ribs…both sharing a laugh for the ages…

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