Monday, June 23, 2008

Seven Words You Heard Today on Television

"George Carlin died today at age seventy-one."

One of our generation's (and our parents' generation's) greatest comics passed away. I was in a brief state of disbelief this morning when I heard the news on NPR, and was immediately brought back to high school. I had memories of sitting on my bedroom floor with a soda and bag of chips, getting cramps in my side from laughing so hard. Memories of driving around with friends quoting Carlin skits and seeing who could remember them more accurately.

Sure, George was almost always profane and sometimes controversial but today's comedians would not be able to be as silly and open as they are if it weren't for his work. His style definitely changed comedy (see this article in Time) and laid the groundwork for comedy as we know it today. Folks like Dane Cook, Jeff Dunham, and Jim Gaffigan can thank Carlin for the freedom they have in their comedic stylings. In an interview with Larry King, Carlin refused to be called "ground-breaking", but admitted he had a perverse pride at being on the positive side of a Supreme Court ruling for his "Seven Dirty Words You Can't Say on Television" (indecent: yes; illegal: no).

I know and appreciate that there are people out there who did not like Carlin's material in stand-up, but that wasn't the only place he could be found. He was also the first host of Saturday Night Live in 1975, "Mr. Conductor" on "Thomas the Tank Engine", and had roles in a number of pop-culture movies including "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure". While you may not agree with his views, you can definitely say that he did not lack in an interesting take on life as well as a high level of observation.

I always knew there would be two celebrities/comedians that I would feel a tug of sadness when they left this world. George Carlin was the first... I will warn you to get some tissues ready for when it's Bill Cosby's turn.

Rest in peace, George. I hope you were able to get the answers about religion when you got to the other side.

In memorium: a couple of my favorite Carlin skits...

"Baseball vs. Football"

"Airline Announcements"

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