Thursday, June 26, 2008
RIP George Carlin 1937-2008
The acknowledged King of Comedy (in most circles anyway) is Lenny Bruce, with Richard Pryor an arguable second. George Carlin should also be classified in the same rarified air, and the cold hard fact is that most baby boomers saw and heard a lot more of the forever-feisty Carlin than the gloom and doomed Bruce. Carlin, like most of his audience, transitioned from hipster to hippie right in front of our eyes, from Ed Sullivan to Saturday Night Live, from comic LPs to HBO specials. Carlin shaped himself into a blue-collar philosopher, a workingman’s thinker, and his brand of comedy was among the first that was drug fueled and informed rather than soaked in alcohol. Carlin’s greatest (and coolest) comedic weapon was his wordplay, and his obvious adoration and puzzlement of and about the everyday American idiom. When on the top of his game (he had an undeniable long term of sustained showbiz excellence), there was nothing quite like his New York City staccato delivery, alternately barking out phrases or enunciating another newfound language absurdity in virtual slow motion, with a comic sensibility that was directly drawn from his Roman Catholic/Irish background, spiced with a solid sprinkle of marijuana logic, a never aging rebel with a cause.