MONTREAL — Garrison Keillor may not have deigned to perform a monologue of “The Seven Dirty Words” in a surprise guest appearance, but A Carlin Home Companion – forgive me, NPR – didn’t require any public broadcasting credentials to classify as a best of the fest selection. The one-woman play and creative brainchild of Kelly Carlin, only living heir to the George Carlin comedy empire, the show commanded such rapt attention of its audience that one might have thought the big man himself had dropped in for a posthumous performance. Like her father before her, Kelly is a deft and capable storyteller – a natural entertainer who, as the product of a rather unnatural childhood, held all in attendance captive and spellbound as she recounted tales of alcoholism, cocaine abuse and life as a showbiz kid.
Equal parts heartbreaking and humorous, Carlin interjected family photos and video clips of her father’s most iconic stand-up sets between a brilliantly woven monologue about the complex tapestry associated with growing up as a Carlin. A licensed therapist and artist in her own right, Kelly never attempted to piggy-back off her father’s success; nor did she make any kind of concerted effort to co-opt his iconic comic stylings. What shone through, without effort, were the striking similarity in manner and perspective. Occasionally, without really intending to, Kelly would strike a look or affect a voice so similar to the footage shown behind her, it would be difficult not to see the more famous half of Carlin and Burns starring back out from her glistening eyes. Watching Kelly speak at length about her experiences while taking in classic comedy clips of the elder Carlin, one couldn’t help but smile knowingly at the chip carrying on in the wake of the block’s passing.
And speaking of the passing, well, there were more than a handful of sniffles in the house by the time Kelly got around to wrapping her story up. Her voice cracking with emotion, Carlin implored her listeners to revel in the light her father had left upon the world, and to share and spread it whenever at all possible. Carlin wasn’t much for the concept of heaven, of course, but if the after life exists, Kelly for one likes to believe her father is at a perfect sort of peace. I’m right there with her, but I’d still like to hope that angel George is busy doling out some serious knowledge to the rest of the heavenly host, as they watch us continue to fuck up our world beyond repair. Oh George. You are missed, but you have left a legacy to be proud of, in spawn as well as spirit.