Hundreds show up to the New York Public Library to honor the legendary George Carlin. His daughter Kelly and his co-author Tony Hendra, along with a handful of famous friends remind us why we miss George so much.
Wednesday night in New York City, where George Carlin was born and raised, hundreds of fans – and a handful of famous friends – turned out to pay homage to the late legendary comedian.
Hosted at the New York Public Library as part of their LIVE from NYPL series by a subdued Whoopi Goldberg, dreadlocks hiding most of her face throughout the night, by night’s end, ticket holders were treated to informal and many times seemingly off-the-cuff tributes from the likes of Louis CK, Ben Stiller and Kevin Smith.
Before the show even started, I felt incredibly lucky to be in the presence of such impressive comedy history and pedigree. Rain Pryor and Kitty Bruce, the daughters of Richard and Lenny sat in the seats in front of me; Steve Martin was in the front row, just a few seats ahead of the comedy daughters; and Tony Hendra, the man who co-wrote Carlin’s final book Last Words (and played the smarmy manager in Spinal Tap) sat next to Carlin’s only child, his daughter Kelly.
A finely upholstered chair sat stage left, empty, to represent Carlin— throughout the program. But as George’s brother Patrick said a few times during his speech, the comedian was definiteily there. “I can feel his vibes,” he refrained.
We all could. Woven between the live tributes to Carlin were clips from a few of Carlin’s HBO specials— just to remind the crowd – like they need it – how ingenious, funny and thought-provoking Carlin was. The spoken tributes, however, took center stage.
Jerry Stiller and Ann Meira – a long respected comedy team – read a letter written by Carlin on Jan. 9, 2006, days after he was released from the hospital, having been operated on for congestive heart failure. The letter, a mass email to all of Carlin’s friends began: “Hi, Fucks”; George followed with great detail about his hospital stay and, the worst part of it all, was when the nurses came around to rip the many bandages off his hairy body.
He told his friends also, that, to give himself a small break from his regular 150-date touring schedule, he would scale back to 80 dates that year. But how would be decide which dates to cancel? For George, it was an easy choice. He eliminated all his Ls Vegas dates, explaining that the audiences were “bone dumb” and that his runs there were always “10 weeks of torture.”
The letter concludes: PS: “No need to reply unless you need medical advice.”
Jerry and Anne then brought up their kids, Ben and Amy Stiller, who both gave short reflections on Carlin, with Ben calling George “one of the comedy gods” and calling him “incredibly kind and warm hearted” while onset of, what Ben called a shitty TV movie of the week Working Trash, in which the pair co-starred.
Kevin Smith and Louis C.K. delivered what would be the night’s most touching tributes with the former presenter nearly breaking down into tears. The well-known screenwriter and director revealed a Carlin most of us didn’t know: the Carlin who always wanted to be an actor. Despite Smith being floored that the man who inspired him to become what he is today agreed to be in a few of his movies, it was George who was eternally grateful to the director for letting him act. After working a few flicks with Kevin, George told him to write his dream role. Kevin asked, well, what would that be? Carlin responded, “I want to play a clergyman who strangles six children.”
So Smith wrote a role especially for him in the movie Jersey Girl. George read the script and told Smith: “Well, there’s a child in it, but I don’t strangle it.” George thankfully played the role of Bert Trinke anyway.
Louis C.K., who gave special thanks to Carlin in the credits of his 2007 comedy special Shameless and then dedicated his 2008 special Chewed to Carlin, made the final tribute of the night, explaining that Carlin’s simple, goofy bit about “what do dogs do on their day off? Sleep? That’s what they do anyway!” is what got him hooked to Carlin when he was young.
Many times during his speech which he delivered in stand-up style and not behind a podium like most of the presenters, he would refer to the large screens on either side of the stage adorned with a video grab of George, calling the legend “this guy,” saying things like “this guy” is the reason I’m able to do what I do onstage.
Other presenters included writer and spoken word performer Dylan Brody, Kelly Carlin and the aforementioned Hendra, who read excerpts from Carlin’s first three books and constitutional lawyer Floyd Abrams.