Tuesday, June 24, 2008

George Carlin


I've been hearing George Carlin's voice in my head since I was about twelve, and his death isn't going to change that. I can recite "dogs and cats" and "football and baseball" from memory - they are on my iPod if I start losing my mind. I never mastered the "seven words" and the sequels because I laughed too hard when I got to "tit - OK if it is five am and there is a cow in the picture".

Whenever I hear a weather report I re-phrase it in Al Sleet's terms "Darkness begining in the evening and continuing through the night". I rarely pick up a bottle of water without hearing him say, "What the fuck, is the nation so dehydrated? Get a drink of water before you leave the house!"

"When will Jesus bring the pork chops?" is on my bedside table right now.

I was so lucky to see him on stage once, about ten years ago. In Fairbanks, in the winter. (No one plays Fairbanks in the winter). Slim and intense in black, what came through so much more clearly live was his anger. It glowed, it thrilled, it made me gasp when I tried to laugh.

And I was moved by Seinfeld's tribute, above. I was surprised - I don't really think of Jerry having human feelings.

Years ago I saw a PBS special on Carlin where he and his brother talked about his background. The alcoholic mother, the absent father. And the amazing fact of the unusual Catholic school where he was recognized as a genius immediately and treated with great respect and kindness until he ran away.

He hated religiousity above all else and insisted we go nowhere when we die. But he lives on in our language and metaphor - I don't think he would mind that.

He riffed on death all the time. "Wouldn't it be interesting if the only way you could die was that suddenly your head blew up? If there were no other causes of death? Everyone died the same way? Sooner or later, without warning, your head simply exploded? You know what I think? I think people would get used to it".

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