Monday, June 23, 2008

George Carlin RIP

George Carlin died today. Everyone knows who he is, I don't have to explain his impact on comedy. This one had me bummed out all day.

The web is filled with his material, so you won't have to go far to get some great Carlin goodness.

This is from one of his best specials, 1999's You Are All Diseased. About three minutes in is my favourite Carlin quote of all time.

Here, from the interview album Carlin on Comedy Carlin discusses comedy writing:

And pain:

Here's something I haven't seen uploaded anywhere else. It's a special from 1997 hosted by Jon Steward entitled "George Carlin: 40 Years of Comedy". It's a retrospective/interview, but also has Carlin himself performing one of his greatest bits, "Advertising Lullaby", in which he delivers the immortal line, "Whoever coined the phrase 'Let the buyer beware' was probably bleeding from the asshole". You can download the entire mp3 by following the link here.

UPDATE: Jesus. The man wrote his own obit. Dammit George, you're supposed to be making me laugh, not cry.

LAST UPDATE: Louis CK, a great comedian himself, wrote a great piece on his website.

Prolific, hard working... This is the way I would say George has had the most direct influence on me personally as a comedian. The guy did about seventeen full hour standup specials. Very generously, he explained how he pulled this off in a terrific interview that is available on a cd called Carlin on Carlin. He talks about spending every year on the road, working specifically on the next special. Every show has a goal, to hone the specific set he is expecting to shoot at the end of the year. Like writing a book. When he shoots the special, it's over. That material goes away and he starts again. I listened to that interview one night, in my car, while coming from a show where I had just done my regular, stump speech hour that took me fifteen years to perfect, at a Chinese restaurant in Saugus Massachusettes. The show had gone well. And I didn't care that it went well. It was solid material. It had been working for years. I'd been doing comedy for almost twenty. So what? Then I heard George explaining his process and I was terrified and inspired. What balls, to just chuck out perfectly good material and start again.

My first hour of material took fifteen years to write and I did it for another five. My second hour took one year. I shot it as a special called "Shameless" and never performed that material again. After a hard year of touring I shot "Chewed Up" and now that material is gone and I'm working on another hour now, from scratch. This is something I never dreamed I'd be able to do, let alone learn to do this late in my life and career. It has given me a new lease on life as a comedian and as a person. It's made me better, more honest and has made every single show of the last three years mean more than any shows in the previous 20.

All of that is due to George. His example, and his words in that interview, were an absolute revolution in my life. I owe him EVERYTHING.