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Friday, 20 June 2008

In Good Company - George Carlin

I am saddened by the news that George Carlin died on Sunday June 22nd 2008. The news got me thinking that George really should be in the In Good Company annuls. Although I left him out of the original list I set out here he is a counter culture hero and as big a fan of Mary Jane as any I can think of. George Carlin was notorious for his political comedy, although he has been repeatedly quoted as stating that he never voted.

George Carlin seemed to be a man born to break all the rules, kicked out of the catholic school system, the air force, and even from the Tonight Show. At the same time he was a man who would also make history. He was a walking talking unified dichotomy.

The Young George Carlin (huh when was George Carlin ever young?)

George Carlin grew up in New York in an area he referred to as "White Harlem" but is actually known as Morningside Heights. He attended catholic school until he "involuntarily left" which point he attended a public school in which he seemingly majored in playing hooky racking up an impressive 63day streak, not including holidays and weekends. His mother wanted him to go into advertising, but Carlin was not interested and actually outright revolted by consumerism in general.

Upon turning 17 he enlisted in the Air Force as a radar technician, and after two court martials the government decided that the armed forces and George Carlin were not cut out for each other. He had already begun working as a disc jockey for KJOE at this point so I don't think he lost any real sleep over this matter since performing was what he wanted to do anyways.

In the 1960's George was doing some regular stand up, and was rather well known. His routines were well received he had performed on the Late Show a couple of times, and he was doing rather well for himself. Then in 1970 Carlin, fed up with the crowds he was catering to stood up before a crowd of conservative salesmen and recited a dissertation on the various uses of the word "shit". He followed with a rant about Vietnam. This was not met with the enthusiasm of his previous performances. This change in his act caused a brief lapse in his career.

Will the Real George Carlin Please Stand Up

Shortly after this dramatic change of act Carlin was asked to perform on the Tonight Show. He showed up in a tie die shirt, obviously high, he was bumped from the show and for a period of a year Carson wouldn't touch him. During this time however Carlin's new act was growing in popularity, and he was proving that despite his gruff exterior and apparent laid back look he also had a strong work ethic and was a reliable performer. So after only a year the Tonight Show lifted the ban.

This new act was rougher and meaner then anything he'd done before. It was clear to anyone who saw George Carlin that his material was real, not just prewritten comedy to tear down things, but rather an actual hatred for the institution of, well institutions. George Carlin was honest if nothing else.

This honesty got him in trouble with the censors, whom he abhorred at least as much as the Catholic Church, if not more. Constantly at odds with censors he began to contemplate exactly what was allowed and what was not, and this led to the development of a bit he became famous called The Seven Words You Can Never Say On TV. In case you have never seen the routine those words are:

  1. Shit
  2. Piss
  3. Fuck
  4. Cunt
  5. Cocksucker
  6. Motherfucker
  7. Tits
And this bit ended up making history in an odd way. In 1973 he performed the act for WBAI and a man overheard the act with his son. The man complained to the FCC who censured WBAI, WBAI fought the censuring and it went all the way to the Supreme Court who subpoenaed Carlin to question him about the act. George Carlin claims it is something he is immensely proud of.

In October of 1975 George Carlin was asked to be the guest host of a new NBC skit comedy show staring some up and coming young comedians known as the "Not Ready for Prime Time Players" this group included:
  • Dan Aykroyd
  • John Belushi
  • Chevy Chase
  • George Coe
  • Jane Curtin
  • Garret Morris
  • Loraine Newman
  • Michael O'Donoghue
  • Guilda Radner
The show became a runaway hit and has launched the careers of many comedians. If you haven't guessed yet the show was Saturday Night Live.

Vanishing Act

In the late 70's Carlin vanished from the limelight again. This time it wasn't due to his act itself. No one seemed to know at the time what caused it, George Carlin just vanished. It was later revealed that during his absence he suffered from various drug addictions and then three heart attacks.

The great ones never can be kept down though, and after five years of silence Carlin returned with vigor (or is that venom) that only George Carlin can lay claim to.

But Where's the Mary Jane

I know this is one heck of a long article, and still no mention of marijuana. One look at George Carlin, especially during the 70's and 80's and anyone would say "Hippy". But that's not really the tie in. Carlin has been quoted as stating that by the age of 13 he was a chronic user of marijuana and stayed stoned for approximately 30 years before cutting back. When asked of his opinion of if the drug harmed him he responded:
Grass probably helped me as much as it hurt me. Especially as a performer. When you're high, it's easy to kid yourself about how clever certain mediocre pieces of material are. But, on the other hand, pot opens windows and doors that you may not be able to get through any other way. Being a very bound-up, Irish Catholic tight-assholed person, I've often thought that whatever negative effects pot had on me, it probably saved me from being an alcoholic and a complete fucking brainless idiot by the time I was 25. So I'd say pot has been a break-even proposition for me.
RIP George Denis Patrick Carlin

On Sunday June 22nd George Carlin went to the hospital complaining of chest pains, unfortunately he did not recover. The world will miss this bastion of free speech.

CTV News Report

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