...has passed. The great George Carlin died yesterday of heart failure.
Carlin was one of the first comedians that really affected me, and one that I followed for years. I've read his books, watched a lot of the HBO Specials, seen him twice live. Those were amazingly great shows and I never laughed so hard as I did at them. Not even Bill Cosby or Robin Williams made me laugh as hard as Carlin could.
As I was growing up there was little censorship in my household and considering I grew up in a Navy town, I heard it all. So it wasn't verboten for me to pick up a cassette of George Carlin's routines. I heard the 'Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television' routine around the age of 11 and I didn't get it. Why couldn't you say those words? That's when I got my first lesson in the difference between freedom of speech and censorship.
Times have changed. You can say all of those words on cable television now (one of them is used sparingly as it's still pretty nasty), and some of them show up on network television too. Times changed for Carlin as well as he added three other words to the list, an addendum you could say, but they never really added to the original routine much. Sometimes you can't tinker with a classic.
So Carlin was a learning experience for me, and an eye opener too. After all, I know all about stuff, and by that I mean "stuff". My stuff. Not your s#!^. And we all have to have a place for our stuff.
I learned about fussy eaters, meat cake, what would happen if hippies were weathermen, and Carlin's take on the Church which was particularly funny if you were a Catholic. Carlin grew up Catholic, so he had loads of material to work with even though he didn't believe in God anymore.
For those who follow Carlin, please take a moment and say a small prayer to Joe Pesci. For those who don't know what I'm talking about, it's time you got a clue and started following Carlin's routines. Don't be a wimp and check it on Wikipedia. Watch the 'stuff' routine on YouTube if it's out there, and then go rent a routine or two so that you can catch up.
Carlin was good at debasement of himself and everything around him, and while he was one of the filthiest comedians he was also one of the smartest. Not in terms of education (he dropped out of high school) but in terms of what he saw and how he presented it. An amazing vocabulary put in front of the common man in order to amuse us.
More often than not his funniest routines poked at American life and politics and didn't involve profanity. Or his simple one liners that had you thinking before you were smiling and laughing - "Those who dance are considered insane by those who can't hear the music". You have to think about that before you can laugh at it.
It's a sad day for me today. It's like part of my childhood died. And it died unexpectedly even though Carlin had a history of heart trouble and it seemed inevitable that his end would come early. 71 was too early because he had a lot more comedy in him, and I feel cheated that I don't get to see him live just one more time. I was considering picking up tickets to see him again this summer (he was supposed to play locally in a month) and am saddened by the fact that I won't get to see him perform again...
...I suppose that I could see him again if there is a forgiving censorship council in the afterlife.