It was sad and a bit of a shock to hear of comedian George Carlin’s death Sunday at the age of 71, though he did appear more frail than usual during his last HBO special and apparently had a history of heart trouble . One of the real giants of standup comedy for over 40 years, his brilliant observations on the absurdities of everyday life and the English language rang especially true to those of us coming of age in our teenage years in the early 1970s. Along with Richard Pryor and to some extent, Cheech & Chong, his fierce intelligence and irreverent social commentary were as important to our counter-culture sensibilities back then as the music we were listening to and the books we were reading.
In those days promoters would often have these eclectic bills mixing music and comedy, and audiences were open and excited (and stoned) to whatever entertainment was offered. I believe Carlin headlined a bill that included Hall and Oates on their first tour of the South (introduced as “Atlantic recording artists Whole Oats” – the name of their first LP), and Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks, and probably someone else as well (The Chambers Brothers?). That was the first and only time I ever got to see him perform, but he was excellent–funny as hell and thought-provoking too. That he would continue doing his thing for another 3 1/2 decades is remarkable. Maybe it wasn’t quite as funny as it used to be, but he continued to make people laugh and shed light on the ridiculous for other generations. And he did some fun TV and film work over the years, including “Thomas the Tank Engine,” some Kevin Smith stuff, and Pixar’s CARS.
To the man whose “Seven DirtyWords You Can’t Say on Radio or Television” routine actually led to a Supreme Court ruling on obscenity (and how many comerdians can claim that?), I say rest in peace. And once more for old times sake: shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, and tits. R.I.P. George Carlin.