George Carlin (1937-2008): Rest in Peace

By | June 23, 2008 at 7:01 am | No comments | Features | Tags: , , , ,

George CarlinUPDATED: 8:45 pm EST

George Carlin died at about 6 pm last night in Los Angeles. He was the first comic I ever became obsessed with. I will miss him. My heart goes out to his family and friends. No doubt, their loss is much greater than my own. Rest in Peace, George. Thank you for introducing me to stand-up comedy. Thank you for everything.

Read Reuters obit here.

I’ve known since the launch of Punchline Magazine nearly three years ago, that I should’ve banked tons of B-matter on George Carlin so that we could’ve gone live with an exhaustive retrospective of the master comedian the day we got the news he had died. But sometimes, my psychoses and my odd views of superstition steals the control away from my journalistic responsibilities. I knew he was old; I knew he had a history of heart problems and drug use; I knew that he spent some time in rehab just a few years ago; I knew that it was probably pretty amazing he was as strong as he was, still touring and cranking out HBO specials. Still, I didn’t really want to start writing his obit and thinking about his past achievements while the man was still so much in the present. Fuck that.

So here I am, tapping away on something that will no doubt post much later than the other online tributes. And surely, this will be nothing groundbreaking or incredibly moving or even vaguely informative. Like me, you’ve already read the countless giant news organizations’ pieces on the life and times of George Carlin. I’m not going to pretend I could compete with them. All I could do, really, is acknowledge the death of one the greatest American minds –and not just in the business of stand-up comedy — by writing a few lines about what the man and his work meant to me.

Bill Cosby Himself, when it was aired on HBO a few years after the album version’s release, was the first time I was ever exposed to stand-up comedy. However, it wasn’t until I was 13 that I realized how powerful the art form could be. It was 1990, the year Carlin’s Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics aired on HBO; when it aired, the network called it Doin’ It Again. I was floored by what Carlin — unknown to me at the time — was doing. He was making me laugh (hard and consistently) as much as he was making me think. I’m sure there have been times that I’ve laughed to the point where I had to stop to catch my breath. I realize that imagery has become cliche; it’s pretty rare anyone literally laughs so zealously that they can’t breath. When I hear someone say it, I call bullshit. But I remember it happening twice to me. Once, the first time I watched Parental Advisory and then many, many years later when I first saw Brian Regan’s Comedy Central Presents.

Parental Advisory became my first stand-up comedy long-term love. It’s what I would compare all other comedian performances to. Now, at the age of 30, I have a few more references so I’m not relying on that one performance for a control comparison. But I still go back to it.

In eighth grade, my friends Mike, Joe and David enjoyed reciting lines from the special during class. (Mike actually texted me early Monday morning to let me know Carlin had died. And I have to admit that through Mike’s father having actually attended school with Carlin in the Bronx, I always felt I had a half a percent closer relationship with George than most. Completely stupid, I know. But when you’re 13, you think stuff like that is super cool). So at a very young and somewhat inappropriate age — I imagine Carlin’s main demo at the time was not 13-year-olds — my friends and I bonded over the words of a man born 40 years before us. We especially liked, “Right, right, I know! See what I’m gonna do is, I’m gonna have my testicles laminated!”

At home, my older brother and I began collecting every Carlin album and video we could get. When he graduated high school in 1993, next to his photo in his yearbook, there was the quote: “Life is a series of dogs,” another line from Parental Advisory. While his classmates in our all-boys Catholic school were including quotes from classic authors, my brother was quoting three-year-old stand-up comedy material from a guy who anchored a huge part of his career to verbally destroying Catholicism. Incidentally, my brother is now a veterinarian, so life for him, is, indeed a series of dogs.

My brother, our friend Bill (now the design director and webmaster for Punchline Magazine) and myself — all huge Carlin fans — eventually formed a band called The Llama Project, a metal outfit wherein most of the lyrics were a series of non-sequiturs or otherwise made very little sense. It was comedy metal. We played in my parents’ basement; the walls were covered with Anthrax, Kiss and Metallica posters as well as one with the large heading, “An Incomplete list of impolite words: 2,443 filthy words and phrases compiled by George Carlin.”

We recorded crappy cassette demos in that basement; the finished product would include audio from Parental Advisory between many songs, which I had sloppily inserted. Off hand, I remember using Carlin’s phrases, “What, are we fuckin’ stupid?” and “Get yourself a fuckin’ bowl of broccoli.”

So that is where and how my fascination with Carlin and stand-up comedy began. Maybe you don’t care. But as someone who chose to launch an online publication that covers nothing but stand-up comedy, I thought it somewhat relevant to explain why I didn’t launch a site about music, or dragons.

Over the years I’ve developed an amazingly strong attachment — by-way-of-their art — to a handful of younger comedians. That is to say, I enjoy the work of dozens of contemporary comics, but there are few that invoke the same kind of emotional response that Carlin offered me. I’m looking at you, Marc Maron, Greg Giraldo and Greg Proops.

I’m glad I found George so early in life; it’s been a pleasure being his fan for the last 17 years.

About the Author

Dylan P. Gadino

Dylan is the founder and editor in chief of Laughspin. He launched Punchline Magazine in 2005 (which became Laughspin in the summer of 2011) with childhood friend Bill Bergmann. Dylan lives in northern New Jersey with his wife and two sons. He hopes the Shire is real.

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  • Susan Boctor- Las Vegas

    When I heard of George Carlin’s death it was really upsetting. I grew up listening and watching him, even had the pleasure of watching him as the hippie dippie weather man, for those of you who have never seem him do this skit, you have missed out. George Carlin was a one of a kind comedian, his stuff was real, original and sincere. he told you like it was, even if some people didn’t agree with his thinking it was truth and it had you stop and think about the things he had to say about alot of things in the world and in life itself. George Carlin will be missed and there will never be another man like him in the world of comedy. I hope where ever you are, they finally got things right., and if not I am sure you will tell them like it is.

  • Susan

    When I heard of George Carlin’s death it was so sad. I have grown up watching and listening to him, even had the pleasure of watching him as the hippie dippie

  • http://www.sparkminute.com/ David Spark

    Friend of mine Rob Paravonian and I had dinner last night. He was
    George Carlin’s last opening act. He had been opening for him for the
    past year. I talked with him about his offstage relationship with
    Carlin and the success of Rob’s YouTube video, Pachelbel’s Rant.

    Watch!

    http://www.sparkminute.com/?p=377

  • http://www.toiletscribble.com Fitz

    Dylan,

    Love your site. It’s funny but Carlin’s death actually triggered a series of events that brought me to your site. I guess every cloud has a silver lining huh? I’m sure Carlin would say “Fuck that, there’s no cloud, no silver and no lining. Stop with your fucking stupid euphemisms and just say death fucking sucks and move on!”

    “Laminate my testicles”, I cannot begin to tell you how many times over the years I have said that. Every single time it makes me laugh. Not can I remember the amount of times Joe and Mike Pez and I have said (in our best impression of GC’s New Yawker accent) “The old artificial fart under the arm”.

    Carlin is probably the only person I never met that I truly and deeply feel sad about losing. My Mother has told me stories of when Kennedy was assassinated and how she cried like she lost a member of her family and how everyone at her office cried as well. I used to wonder how anyone could feel that much emotion at the loss of someone they never met. Now I know.

  • Emma

    Wow, that was really great! Congratulations: you actually made me tear up at work. When confronted, I told my coworkers that I was reading a story about orphaned puppies in one of the “stan” countries.

    Seriously, though, what a wonderfully fitting tribute to a man who touched so many lives through comedy. The world is now at least 20% less intelligent without him.

  • http://www.myspace.com/riley_fox Riley Fox

    It’s hard to say goodbye to someone who has influenced and inspired you in so many ways. I know this because I feel the same way. By far, my favorite Carlin memory is sitting in the 3rd row of the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, TN, watching the man actually TEST NEW MATERIAL (this was October 2006, so a lot of it ended up in the last HBO show, but it was new at that time). As an aspiring comedian myself, it was a truly sublime moment to witness.

    The thing I’m gonna miss the most is his point-of-view. No longer will we be able to hear his unique take on things going on in the modern sociopolitical landscape that he was so fond of deconstructing. But he has left behind a grand legacy, perhaps only paralleled by the likes of guys like Richard Pryor or Bill Hicks.

    However, when one of the true greats leaves us, it can be kind of inspiring in itself. Because with guys like Carlin gone, it leaves a comedic void in the world, and it could inspire us comedians and comedy fans to work together to fill that void by honoring that great legacy in our own different ways. Even though there are a few contemporaries following in those footsteps (like those you mentioned in the article), there aren’t nearly enough of them out there. It reminds me of that Hicks documentary “It’s Just A Ride” in which the late Richard Jeni says something to the effect of, “When you see a guy like that, it makes you think, ‘Wow, THAT’S the kinda stuff I should be doing.’”

    Not saying we should all rip off guys like Carlin and Hicks (enough have done that already), but we given this medium we have the opportunity to do more with it than just tell a bunch of knock-knock jokes. We should take advantage of it more often.

    Great article. Thanks for the laughs, George.

    –Riley

  • http://crashof83.blogspot.com Joe

    Great post, Dylan. You really took me back some years with that one.

    You’re not alone in that feeling of a “half a percent closer relationship” with George based on Mike’s father having gone to school with Carlin. I also felt closer to George when I heard stories of people bumping into him at the Westwood diner (?).

    Maybe George is teaching God how to do an “artificial fart under the arm” right about now?

    Midland’s ‘Class Clown’ of 1991,
    Joe Pezz (aka Spleen Hog)

  • Bill

    My wife & I saw him May 30th here in NJ. Though he showed his age a bit, and repeated most of his last ande now final HBO Special (also his 14th) it was an awesome show. At 71 the legend was still edgy and on point.

    He walked onto the stage and the first this he says is “F#@K Lance Armstrong and F#@K those yellow wrist bands” the crowd lost it.

    His perspective was always original. Not everyone could handle his humor, but he helped drive the current “cringe humor” movement.

    Though he was never one to believe in heaven I hope he’s in a good place.
    RIP

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