Monday, June 23, 2008

George Carlin

My friend Kevin and I spent the weekend at the HorrorHound Convention at Monroeville PA. I will blog about that later; for now, I would like to say a few words about comedian George Carlin, who passed away this Sunday from a heart attack.

My long-time friend Perry Lynch introduced me to Carlin in junior high. He lent me his copy of Carlin's "Class Clown" album. That's right, I said album. I'm old enough to remember when turntables weren't musical instruments. We called them record players, and once you put the needle down, you just left the thing alone and let it play. And did I ever play the hell out of that album. I did eventually give it back to Perry, but not before I managed to record it on tape.

I picked up every Carlin album I could get my hands on. I looked forward to his HBO specials like other people look forward to the Super Bowl. And he kept going strong over the years, writing books, acting in movies and on TV, and doing more HBO specials.

My junior high sensibilities were drawn to Carlin by his colorful language and his willingness to talk about anything (Remember "The Seven Words You Can't Say On Television? Of course you do.). But what kept me following his career was the thoughtfulness of his material. He made you laugh, but he also made you think, something not a lot of comedians can do. He was the master of what I call an epiphany laugh. You'd laugh while thinking to yourself, "Oh god, that's so true! I never noticed that before." Comic genius is a term thrown around a bit too easily; for George Carlin, that label was earned in the trenches and deserved many times over. He was the perfect successor to Lenny Bruce, and as important to comedy as his contemporary Richard Pryor. Sadly, they're all gone now.

I doubt there's a comedian working today who wouldn't site Carlin as an influence, and his work will continue to influence comedy and art. He showed us that art has to be brave and unflinching. He made comedy mean something. I miss him already.

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