"Shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, and tits."
When I was about twelve or thirteen, I remember riding along with the family on one of our road trips. We were listening to a tape (remember those?) of different comedy routines - there were about a dozen comedians in all, each one had about a five-minute excerpt. Some were funny (Bill Cosby) and some were apparently quite dirty (Redd Foxx) and deserved fast-forwarding, much to my disappointment. But the one that stood out in my young mind was a bit called "Wonderful Wino Radio" by George Carlin. In one of his rare no-swearing routines, he portrayed a drunk radio announcer who broadcast his show on a bandwidth "just above the police band." The absurdity stuck with me, and before long I convinced my parents to let me listen to his full albums.
Carlin became a huge influence on my sense of humor. He was a total wiseass and existed to be subversive, but he was never mean (except to people who really pissed him off). Carlin's routines had an even greater impact on my appreciation for the English language and how severely fucked it is. Yeah, he swore a lot (boy, did he!) but it was usually to prove a point. Like when he talked about the aggressive "k" sounds in the words cocksucker
as being just as aurally assaulting as the literal meanings. The act of breaking down the swears 1) made it okay to use the swears while talking about them and 2) made the routine that much more intelligent, which in turn made it even funnier. "Tits... such a friendly
sounding word! Sounds like a nickname, right?"
He also made light of religion, having been brought up Irish Catholic and - through life, comedy, and a shitload of drugs - eventually questioning the whole idea of faith. If he believed in anything, it was that people, in general, can fuck things up and thereby provide him with an endless source of material for his comedy. Maybe in the end, that proved to be his god; the people of this doomed planet an ever-present wellspring of funny. Or maybe he prayed to Joe Pesci
More than anything, though - Carlin reminded us that life is pretty damn funny and strange sometimes. As a comedian, he said that his job was "reminding you about the things you forgot to laugh at the first time." He loved the absurd, whether it was little things we all experience but don't really talk about
or the wacky ideas he came up with while letting his mind wander (e.g. tissues with bulls-eyes on them). Or how strange it is to see an empty plate in the refrigerator ("Did something eat something else??").
He did a lot with his career - he was the very first host of SNL, he recorded many albums and won Grammys for them, he wrote books, he had stints in movies and even had a short-lived TV show. His HBO specials were the reason to have HBO. He even was the voice of the narrator in the kids' animated series Thomas the Tank Engine. And - like we all knew he would - he became a dirty old man. He was a dirty young man, so why not, right? But it was sad to watch some of his last routines... he could still knock 'em dead with the humor, but he didn't look too healthy. The drugs weren't good to him, and we all knew it was only a matter of time.
And so, as the networks and talk shows are undoubtedly scrambling to compile as much footage as possible for the tributes, real fans of George Carlin feel a twinge of sadness at his passing. But it was his time, and for someone who while still alive
was regarded as one of the greatest comedians of all time, his passing will serve to introduce a whole new legion of youth to his material.
So George... thanks for the laughs. And go fuck yourself. You probably would've wanted me to end the post that way.