Monday, June 23, 2008

George Carlin: A Eulogy

I had another post on tap for this afternoon, but after hearing about George Carlin's death from heart failure, well, I felt I had to eulogize him.

In writing this post, I could easily post a lot of video clips, because if George Carlin was anything, he was a prodigious producer of material, but I thought better of it.

Yes, he wrote and performed some of the most iconic and recognizable routines in modern comedy, from his early standup on The Ed Sullivan Show to the Seven Words you Can Never Say on Television to litany of HBO specials he filmed at roughly 2 year intervals since the late 1970's. He was also the first host of Saturday Night Live, so there is quite a lot of footage out there.

George Carlin had one of the longest comedic careers of relevance in the modern history of that discipline. Now, I am not talking about just having career longevity, because clearly men like George Burns and Bob Hope had him beat in that regard. No, rather I mean that even up to the time of his death, he was continuing to poke and prod at sensitive issues. He didn't rest on his laurels. He was a fearless comic who inspired multiple generations of comedians, and for that alone, he should be cherished.

But his continuing excellence as a standup after so many years, that was beyond admirable, it was astonishing. Usually the renegades burnout or fade from view, but Carlin was nearly ever-present through the past 40 years. He was one of those iconic people that seemed like they would always be around, commenting on our social foibles, our consumerist culture, the oddities of our language and the collective car wreck of the modern political system and the men and women who inhabited that sphere. He was a pioneer, and I am sure there will be a lot of tributes from his peers in the coming days and weeks.

Now, I know that there was some general disappointment about certain episode of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno which featured George Carlin and Ann Coulter where he did not engage her in any meaningful way, but he later explained that he was showing her some professional courtesy on an entertainment program, and it was neither the time nor the place for such a discussion. Plus, in his words, she was a zealot that doesn't respond to nuanced arguments. So even in explaining that situation, he still got in a good zinger at her expense. Bravo.

Of course, I am fully expecting a eulogy from Fox News like this, because he certainly poked at the interests and values they represent with vigor and wit, and if they choose to attack him in death, well, it certainly shows a lot of class on their part, doesn't it?

Now when I was looking into that appearance on the Tonight Show with Coulter, I came across another quote which seemed to sum things up nicely:

"Look, comedy is very much what it always was for stand-ups like me: a person with some jokes and ideas to share. I do this to show off and to satisfy my left brain, because I am a show off. But I don't think of comedy as ``going" anywhere, except maybe to the beach on a hot day."

I couldn't have summed it up better myself.

9 comments:

Mel said...

It makes me so sad to know he is gone. I posted about it as well. I actually yelled, "No! NO!" at the television when the news came on last night. What a sad thing. A sad, sad loss for all of us.

Schadenfreude said...

I was a huge fan of Carlin's early stuff, and even through the 80s, 90s and the turn of the millennium I thought he was still at the top of his game. He started to slow down a little in the last few years -- but Carlin in 1st gear still kicked the ass of the majority of present day comics redlining it in 6th. He was a talented pioneer to say the least.

Arjan said...

I'm ashamed I don't know who this man is, so I'm going to youtube him ...but I'd better do it when I got time because I bet I'll be stuck to the U-tube for hours.

Anonymous said...

George Carlin and Ann Coulter where he did not engage her in any meaningful way, but he later explained that he was showing her some professional courtesy on an entertainment program, and it was neither the time nor the place for such a discussion. Plus, in his words, she was a zealot that doesn't respond to nuanced arguments. So even in explaining that situation, he still got in a good zinger at her expense. Bravo.

BWAHAHAHAH THIS LIBERAL HACK OF A COMEDIAN 'GOT IN A ZINGER' BWHAHAA IF ANNIE NEEDED SOMEONE TO SHINE HERE PUMPS GEORGIE MIGHT HAVE QUALIFIED...I THINK HE SHOULD HAVE SHUT UP TILL HE GRADUATED CUM LAUDE FROM MICH. STATE LAW AND COMPLETED 5 BEST SELLERS...

MC said...

Mel: I audibly groaned when I heard myself.

Schad: And he certainly never ran out of things to say.

Arjan: Yes, there is a lot of material to go through... and I am sure you will see his influence on other comedians as you watch.

Anonymous: Well, there are two kinds of people who go by anonymous, those fighting Scientology and cowardly chicken shits who generally do drive by postings, and since I don't see any Scientologists here, well, I think it is safe to assume you are the latter.

God knows, you wouldn't want anyone to know who you are, because naturally they would find out that on most days you are shoulder deep in a bull's ass trying to get the freshest shit for that midden pile you call a brain.

Now, as far as I recall, I don't remember Mr. Carlin being afraid of a pie. And really, I am sure we've all met some rather dim lawyers in our time... lawyers who in discussing something outside the realm of their limited mental capacity or background and decide that they will not admit that they are wrong even when that is demonstratively the case.

Now in most cases when one is in polite company, one uses their inside voice, but seeing as you are again, an anonymous chicken shit, I can only assume your lack of a name and manners stems from the fact that shortly after you were born, your parents, ashamed at what you were destined to become, left you in a cow patch to allow you to follow sick and twisted bovine cranio-rectal obsession without staining their good name.

I will give you this though, Ann Coulter is more of a man than you are.

Mel said...

"Ann Coulter is more of a man than you are."
LMMFAO!!!! Bravo! Bravissimo!

Mayren said...

omfg that is brilliant MC.
*hifive*

Micgar said...

That was a great post-Matt-in more ways than one! Whew! I think anonymous is crawling back into that warm, stinky place he/she crawled out of!

MC said...

Yeah, things are generally very cordial here, and for the most part, you rarely see me tee off on someone. But sometimes it is fun to get a few swings in the batting cage.