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George Carlin turns 70 Today
2007-05-12 14:41
by Scott Long

When you're born you get a ticket to the freak show. When you're born in America, you get a front row seat.

On this date in 1937, George Carlin was born in New York City. My thought on birthdays has always been there are about 15 interesting ones. I don't think adults should get too excited about the whole birthday concept. I really doubt someone as cynical as Carlin has a big party to celebrate adding another digit to his age. (Revised from earlier post.)


I think people should be allowed to do anything they want. We haven't tried that for a while. Maybe this time it'll work.

I've wanted to do a post on George Carlin since I began this blog, so I figure today is as good as any other time to do it. When any list of the greatest standup comedians of all-time is discussed, only 2 performers can be considered for the top. Richard Pryor or George Carlin. Pryor is the most dynamic standup on stage, but Carlin is really underrated in this category. When you listen through his body of work, Carlin blows away any other comic, as the quality and quantity are truly amazing. Most comedians struggle to ever come up with an hour of really funny material. Carlin has 20 times this much. I think George Carlin is the greatest standup comedian.

I'm completely in favor of the separation of Church and State. My idea is that these two institutions screw us up enough on their own, so both of them together is certain death.

On a personal note, Carlin is the biggest reason I decided to do comedy. I like all types of comics, but he was the one that made me think it was something I could do. Lenny Bruce was the groundbreaking comic who made many of the things possible that future comics were able to take advantage of. Carlin has always given credit for Bruce's trailblazing ways. I like and respect Bruce, but Carlin always made me laugh more.

There's no present. There's only the immediate future and the recent past.

While Carlin has during the past decade become less laugh-out-loud funny, I still find that his HBO shows are great performance pieces. From the hippy dippy weatherman to 7 words you can't say on television to a place for your stuff to golf courses for the homeless to why we don't need 10 commandments to.... the guy has offered more brilliant thoughts on modern society than any philosopher during the past 40 years. And like Mark Twain he managed to do it with style and wit.

Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?

I am not a guy who buys into the whole idolizing people thing, There are a select few people, though, that I get a bit Ayn Rand about. George Carlin is at the top of my list. I hope when I'm 70, I'm as cantankerous as him, still questioning the world around me. Just as importantly, I hope I'm able to make people of all ages laugh while I'm dong it.

Inside every cynical person, there is a disappointed idealist

2007-05-12 15:30:27
1.   Suffering Bruin
I went to high school with Carlin's daughter but I never got to meet George Carlin. That always ticked me off.

Every stand-up comic I've met (maybe a baker's dozen over the years) has without exception told me that George Carlin is either the best or one of the best. The comics I've met varied widely in their opinions on what made a great comic and who was a great comic. I always found it noteworthy that they all agreed, in separate conversations, on the greatness of Carlin.

Happy Birthday, George.

2007-05-12 15:38:38
2.   Bluebleeder87
i love & get what he says but i just don't like the way he delivers it, he seems like a grumpy old guy to me.

Happy Bday George Carlin.

2007-05-12 17:27:25
3.   Ravenscar
Growing up in the 70's, Carlin was definitely that guy you weren't supposed to know about, and felt cooler and dirtier than anyone else for knowing.

As an avid golfer, I have always appreciated Carlin's opinions on golf to keep the stupid thing in perspective.

My favorite Carlin quote: "Whenever anyone says 'Have a good one', I always respond 'I already have a good one, I'm looking for a longer one.'"

(Lastly, given Carlin's views on fanatacism and the human treatment of their fellow humans, I would LOVE to hear Carlin's opinion of Ayn Rand. THAT would make me smile.)

Many more, George, I hope you have many more.

2007-05-12 17:32:52
4.   Suffering Bruin
All of those who want to celebrate George's birthday the proper way, please report to here:

2007-05-12 21:00:58
5.   Cliff Corcoran
Doesn't Patton Oswalt have a bit about birthdays along the same lines as your intro?

Meanwhile, one thing that fascinates me about Carlin is that in the '70s his stage posture was so loose and limber. He almost looked like a dancer. He also looked long and lean, punctuated his jokes with goofy faces, and had a calm, soothing delivery. Now he's like a clenched fist on stage. His body and face are almost frozen in a hunched scowl, and his jokes come in a harsh staccato. Maybe it's just because he got off the drugs. Maybe it's just age. But the weird thing is I've never seen footage of him from any sort of transition period between the two. It's as if he made an overnight transformation from the rubber-faced, loose-limbed guy in the purple v-neck shirt to the stiff, black-clad angry old man with the pony tail. If it his point of view wasn't so consistent I'd have a hard time believing it was the same guy.

2007-05-12 21:25:35
6.   Scott Long
Excellent description of Carlin's 2 stages.

In regards to the Oswalt piece, I'm unaware of it. Can't say I seen much of his act, outside of a few TV spots, so I'm sure you could be right. Just something I've thought for a long time about birthdays.

Searched more online about this and Cliff's right. Here is a segment from a review on Oswalt's standup.

"When you're one through nine, you get a birthday because you're a little kid," he explains. "After 21, you only get a birthday once for every new set of 10s you enter, until you hit 90. Once you hit 90, every year after, one law no longer applies to you. At 95, you can legally steal anything. Because if you own something and a 95 year old can get it away from you, it was never really yours. At 100, you can legally commit murder— you can't use a gun or a knife or poison, but if you can strangle or pummel someone to death with your bare hands, no one can convict you. That's how we weed out the weak people."

Parallel contstruction or not, way too close from my point of view to want to leave it up here. I plan on taking it down, as I don't want anyone thinking I'm guilty of pulling a Mencia. (Like almost everything I write here, this has never been in my standup, I want to note.)

Thanks for the heads-up, Cliff.

2007-05-12 21:51:45
7.   al bundy
As a kid, I was very fond of Carlin's comparison of baseball and football. Even though I was a much bigger baseball fan. Brilliant stuff.
2007-05-12 22:55:54
8.   Voxter
only 2 performers can be considered for the top. Richard Pryor or George Carlin.

Steve Martin says hello.

2007-05-13 11:07:39
9.   Underbruin
George Carlin's stand-up has always been great, but one moment really gave me pause when watching him on TV. It was, I'm sad to admit, while I was watching Tough Crowd w/Colin Quinn, and Carlin was a guest. Perhaps it's just because I'm more familiar with Carlin's material than what they expected the audience to be, but he did basically nothing but bits of his standup.

And I don't mean the topics, I mean the lines, verbatim - in the middle of a conversation, for example, he tossed in the 'rancher f***s a sheep on the edge of a cliff' joke, which had nothing to do with the discussion. Also annoying was the fact that the other comedians there HAD to know what he was doing - if I could pick it up, they must have been able to as well... But they looked like they were about to pop a vein from laughing so hard; just rang fake.

It was very jarring, because Carlin's clearly extremely amusing and talented, and it made me wonder how successful he could be at being funny off-the-cuff.

Then I simply decided he was being satirical and attempting to simply destroy Quinn's show from within, and went with it. So here's to George Carlin and his irreverence. I'd say that any 'best comic ever' list that doesn't include him in the top 3 spots simply lacks validity.

2007-05-13 17:16:44
10.   fordprefect
I can just imagine a free-for- all fistfight between Ayn Rand and 2nd-stage George Carlin. Enough anger and aggression for about 30 rounds. Enough verbosity for at last 30 more.


2007-05-13 17:17:38
11.   fordprefect
at least 30 more.
2007-05-13 19:21:22
12.   Scott Long

Just got off the phone with Steve Martin. He called to say hello. I asked him about the subject and he said that he only did standup for about 5 years, so it's kind of hard to be considered in the class of Carlin and Pryor.

Martin was the first comedian I ever loved. He was rock star comic when I was 10 years old. I would say he was the biggest standup comedy sensation in the history of the genre. While artistically I really respect the absurdist style that it could be argued he invented, I don't think his career in standup is on the level of the 2 I mentioned, plus another select few.

Now if he wouldn't have gone to movies, Martin might be on this level, but he is an excellent screenplay writer and actor. The West Coast Woody Allen.

Sometime I will have to put up a top 10 list on the subject.

2007-05-14 09:22:05
13.   jgpyke
Nice tribute. I used to love Carlin. My folks received, as a gift, Class Clown on LP when it came out--along with Cheech & Chong's Los Cochinos album at the same time. My brother and I listened to them all the time.

I later bought some Carlin records at Woodmar Records in Woodmar Mall in Hammond, IN. I'd ride my bike there, and come home all excited to hear Carlin's new xit. I even saw him live at the Holiday Star Theater in Merrillville when I was in jr high or so (the Carlin on Campus tour).

But now when I see him, he just seems to be a bitter old man to me. To me, I used to love his wordsmithing, his goofiness, his physical comedy. "I used to be an Irish Catholic" is such a superior bit to anything on religion he's done in a decade, IMO.

I don't think comedy is immutable, and my own tastes change (about everything, not just comedy). As his politics got more aggressive, mine changed. I got older; he got less funny. "Y'know, you grow."

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