Few names in comedy history loom larger than George Carlin. The legendary comedian was fearless in his takedowns of social norms, constantly pointing his razor-sharp wit toward our worst societal ills. From his early days as a free speech advocate to his multitude of Johnny Carson appearances to his politically charged specials at the end of his life, Carlin never stopped speaking out for what he believed in.
His approach to comedy inspired legions of the medium’s top artists, and many of them paid tribute to him in “George Carlin’s American Dream,” the new documentary on his life from directors Judd Apatow and Michael Bonfiglio. The special provides a deeper look into Carlin’s personal life than ever seen before, pairing his early family life with his iconic performances to paint a detailed picture of the comedy icon. It also digs into the drug problem that plagued Carlin for much of his adult life. Fittingly, the documentary was produced by HBO, Carlin’s longtime comedy home that aired his most beloved specials.
HBO’s official synopsis for the documentary reads: “‘George Carlin’s American Dream’ chronicles the life and work of legendary comedian George Carlin. Dubbed the ‘dean of counterculture comedians,’ Carlin’s career spanned half a century during which he headlined 14 HBO comedy specials and appeared on ‘The Tonight Show’ over 130 times, constantly evolving with the times and staying sharply resonant up until his death in 2008 and beyond. Carlin’s ability to zoom in on societal ills has proven eerily prophetic and much of his work resonates today with alarming — and still hilarious — clarity. The documentary examines a cultural chameleon who is remembered as one of the most influential stand-up comics of all time.”
The documentary features interviews with Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, Patton Oswalt, Stephen Colbert, Bill Burr, Bette Midler, W. Kamau Bell, Sam Jay, Judy Gold, Jon Stewart, along with Carlin’s daughter Kelly Carlin, manager Jerry Hamza, second wife Sally Wade, brother Patrick Carlin, and others.
Part 1 of “George Carlin’s American Dream” will air on HBO on May 20 at 8 p.m. ET, with Part 2 airing at the same time the following night. You can watch the trailer below.