Monday, June 23, 2008

Everything is a situation: George Carlin, R.I.P.

Legendary comedian George Carlin has died of heart failure at 71. Carlin's probably my biggest hero as a comic, someone whom I didn't always agree with, but who always argued his points with such conviction -- as he once put it, "I don't have pet peeves. I have major psychotic fucking hatreds." -- and seemingly impenetrable logic that I couldn't help but laugh.

I frequently quote his philosophy that any topic, no matter how sensitive or despicable, can be made into a joke, as he demonstrates in his routine about how rape can be funny. As he put it, the trick is how you construct the joke and what the exaggeration is.

I also loved Carlin's obsession with the misuse of language. His routine about the 7 words you can't say on television (which pay cable and "NYPD Blue" rendered obsolete) is his most famous, but his material about non-profane language could be just as funny.

I may be asked to write something longer for the paper, so I need to head into the office early. In the meantime, some other good bits of Carlin you can watch or listen to:

7 comments:

dronkmunk said...

Yep, we're all screwed now.

Adam said...

This is fucking bullshit. My dad let me start watching Carlin's HBO specials when I was 10 or 11, and it was Carlin, along with Moonlighting and The Simpsons, which defined for me what comic could be, and how one could question and stand outside the surrounding world. Confront, provoke, don't make it easy for the audience. Yeah, I'll miss him.

Mr. Bad Example said...

George was my idol, it's a sad morning and the week will be sadder still, as I revisit all my Carlin albums...

Well, I guess he's one with The Big Electron now!

You'll be missed, Georgie...

Alan Sepinwall said...

Added one more YouTube link: Carlin on death.

Tracey said...

Carlin's death is a great loss. People often think of Carlin's vulgar material, but I was always most impressed by his insightful commentaries on language. You linked to one of the better ones. But that clip picks up after my favorite part of that routine, talking about the words for soldiers' psychological problems: once called "shell shock," then "battle fatigue," later "operational exhaustion," then finally "post-traumatic stress disorder." And if we were still calling it "shell shock," Carlin says, maybe those Vietnam vets could get the help they need.

Andrew said...

His routine about the 7 words you can't say on television (which pay cable and "NYPD Blue" rendered obsolete)

The indecency standard that the Supreme Court allowed the FCC to apply to broadcasts in the seven dirty words cast ( FCC v. Pacifica Foundation,) is largely the same standard that the FCC uses to regulate broadcast television and radio today. While pay cable enables shows like The Wire, The Sopranos and Deadwood to use as many of those seven words as they like, broadcasters are still prohibited from broadcasting indecent material between 6 AM and 10 PM.

Here's a little more clarification on Carlin's impact on broadcast law from the Broadcast Law Blog: George Carlin - Writing the Indeceny Rules the FCC Never Did.

Carlin was one of the great comics because his comedy always managed to expose some deeper truth about society and the world while being funny.

Alan Sepinwall said...

The indecency standard that the Supreme Court allowed the FCC to apply to broadcasts in the seven dirty words cast ( FCC v. Pacifica Foundation,) is largely the same standard that the FCC uses to regulate broadcast television and radio today.

I recognize that -- and that, post Janet Jackson, even the minor progress that network shows like NYPD Blue, ER and Chicago Hope (all of which managed to use "shit" in episodes) made has been rolled back -- but my point was that you can say those words on television now, in part because television has changed from the three-channel universe of the time when that routine was born.