Master of Comedy: George Carlin

“Masters of Comedy” is what I hope will be an ongoing series where I will present some of my favorite comics and provide you a highlight of their material.  For my first attempt at this I figure I’ll break out the biggest gun possible.

george-carlin

 

Hailing from New York City, George Carlin was destined to be one of the funniest men on the planet. He got his start in comedy at a young age pairing up with Jack Burns. Those familiar with Carlin might be shocked to know that Carlin and Burn’s act was completely clean. After splitting with Burns, Carlin moved onto radio and television variety shows such as the Ed Sullivan show.

The 70’s saw Carlin not only take on a new appearance but seemingly a new persona as a scruffy-faced, foul-mouthed shock comedian in the vein of Lenny Bruce. During this period he performed his now infamous “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television” bit.

This routine led to his arrest on obscenity charges and possibly the most famous freedom of speech case in the last few decades “The Federal Communications Commission vs. Pacifica Foundation”. A radio station which played the naughty bit was sued by the F.C.C. and new guidelines were set up for times when illicit and explicit content could be played.

Carlin was not swayed by the decision or by his arrest, if anything it drove him to become more controversial and more cutting edge. Through his many HBO specials his material became more cerebral and more popular.

One of Carlin’s favorite topics for ridicule was religion. He once state that instead of praying to an “invisible man” he would rather pray to Joe Pecsi because the likelihood of his prayers getting answered was about the same and he {Pesci} looks like a “guy who could get things done”. Carlin however is not without a spiritual bone in his body as he admitted on the Larry King show that he is not willing to dismiss that there are greater forces at work, but not willing to buy into it either.

As the years passed Carlin did not fade away from the spotlight or pull a “Madonna” and reinvent himself. He used movie roles to reintroduce himself to younger audiences. Through appearances in the “Bill & Ted” movies, a number of Kevin Smith-directed projects, even the Disney product “Cars”. Even though he had aged his comic ferocity was still that of a hungry pit bull.

Right until his death Carlin toured and recorded comedy albums.  His material did not waver even in the face of personal tragedy as his wife passed away due to complications from liver cancer. His own personal demons including a battle with alcohol and painkillers couldn’t blunt his comedic Excalibur. For his bravery, his comic wit, originality and sheer funniness George Carlin is a true master of comedy.

I had the pleasure to see George Carlin live at the Orleans Casino in Las Vegas in 2006.  At the start of the show he informed the audience he was doing new material and since he was older would refer to his notes a few times.  I honestly cannot remember him glancing at them a single time and he was as funny as ever.  It was a honor to see a true master ply his craft.  George Carlin passed away June 22, 2008 due to heart failure.  He was a gifted actor, writer, philosopher and a true master of comedy.  I present to you my favorite George Carlin bit as tribute.

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One thought on “Master of Comedy: George Carlin

  1. I love George Carlin. That bit on religion and God is hilarious! lol. For the last month my friends and I have been listening to all of George Carlin’s stand up bits to pass the down time at work. His brand of comedy and his delivery is definitely up there as one of the best. That is awesome that you got see him perform live.

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