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June 23, 2008

Posted by Avram Grumer at 04:45 PM *

George Carlin is dead of a heart attack (“a gawddamned myocahdial infahction” as he once described an earlier attack) at age 71.

Two of Carlin’s albums, Class Clown and FM & AM, were constant companions of mine one summer when I was a kid. I listened to them so often that parts of them are permanently etched into my brain.

One of those sketches, “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television”, from Class Clown, is probably one of the most famous pieces of stand-up comedy ever. To me, it remains the quintessential George Carlin comedy routine, because it’s not just funny, it’s also an examination of why things are funny, and an exploration of the relationship between sound and meaning. Carlin got me thinking about sentences and meaning in a way I hadn’t before.

A follow-up to “Seven Words”, “Filthy Words”, was the first (and I think only, so far) stand-up comedy routine ever to be entered into the text of a US Supreme Court decision, FCC v Pacifica Foundation.

Comments on Shit!:
#1 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2008, 05:36 PM:

Alas. Alack.

And shit.

#2 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2008, 05:45 PM:

[channeling Eddie Izzard]

Fuckin' 'ell!


He was a form of literary genius. I was looking forward to seeing him accept the Mark Twain.


#3 ::: Ulrika O'Brien ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2008, 06:14 PM:

Yeah, shit. Or, more precisely: shit, piss, fuck, cocksucker, motherfucker AND tits. George would want us to use all seven.

#4 ::: Ulrika O'Brien ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2008, 06:18 PM:

Cunt. I forgot cunt. I of all people.

#5 ::: Dan ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2008, 06:32 PM:

"First Richard [Pryor] had a heart attack. Then I had a heart attack. Then Richard burned himself up. And I said, 'Fuck that. I'm having another heart attack!" -George Carlin.

I always loved that quote. I am going to miss that funny, funny man.

#6 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2008, 06:39 PM:

Wide-ranging multiple interviews with Carlin on Fresh Air today.

#7 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2008, 06:44 PM:

For years I had friends who thought I was witty when I was merely quoting George Carlin. I was sort of hoping he'd live forever or something. Damn. I mean, fuck. I mean, shit.

#8 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2008, 06:44 PM:

For years I had friends who thought I was witty when I was merely quoting George Carlin. I was sort of hoping he'd live forever or something. Damn. I mean, fuck. I mean, shit.

#9 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2008, 06:53 PM:

For the benefit of Googlejuice drinkers, Rosetta Stone fans and future generations who will grow up thinking in ROT13: fuvg, cvff, shpx, phag, pbpxfhpxre, zbgureshpxre and gvgf; see also: sht, pss, fck, cnt, ccksckr, mthrfckr and tts.

#10 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2008, 06:59 PM:

Listen to his Fresh Air appearances. He was a geek, taking pride in being put into the electronics in the Air Force, and running a "tight board" while a DJ.

#11 ::: kouredios ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2008, 07:42 PM:

*sigh* So sad to hear this this morning. The spouse and I saw him live in Burlington, VT the weekend we got engaged. He's been sort of part of the family since then.

#12 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2008, 07:49 PM:

I woke this morning to news of his death. That was not the best thing to wake up to.

#13 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2008, 07:55 PM:

Aside from all the other terrific things about Mr. Carlin, I love the inevitable moment from his appearance on Inside the Actors Studio when it's his turn to answer "What is your favorite curse word?" (Find it at roughly 8:49 of this YouTube video)

The answer was "zbgureshpxre", because "it has such balance to it."

So much for more mentoring of Bill and Ted :-(

#14 ::: Jason B ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2008, 08:03 PM:

This was my morning news. Blech.

George Carlin and Monty Python were the two biggest influences on me as I became a human being.

Because of George I was able to experience the world with a pre-jaundiced eye at the age of fourteen. I am the curmudgeon I am today because of Carlin at Carnegie and Carlin on Campus.

#15 ::: vian ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2008, 08:41 PM:

Damn, blast, curses, rentboy, knavery, balderdash and zounds!

By the Valves Electric, the Society for Colourful Steampunk Invective will lament his passing.

#16 ::: Wrye ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2008, 08:42 PM:

Shit, piss, cunt, fuck, cocksucker, motherfucker, but not tits. Tits doesn't even belong on the list. I think Carlin made clear he was kind of fond of tits. It's a happy word.

On Saturday I saw an ad for an upcoming Carlin show in Vancouver, and thought to myself, I have to get tickets. I may never get another chance. Shit, piss, cunt, fuck, cocksucker, motherfucker.

I really hope Carlin was wrong about there not being an afterlife, just because I'd love to think what his entrance interview for the great beyond would be like. I think he could probably talk his way into or out of anywhere.

We've lost a genius, a true original. But we were fortunate to have him as long as we did.

#17 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2008, 10:01 PM:

I'm already depressed. This is such sad news.

I also hope there is an afterlife. And what Wrye and others have articulated far better than I.

#18 ::: Lola Raincoat ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2008, 11:29 PM:

Well, fuck.

Back in the early Reagan years I had a slot from two to five in the morning, one day a week, on a 10-watt FM station in a small midwestern town. This was a great opportunity to explore the record library, since I figured that nobody was listening anyhow. One night I dropped the needle on "Words You Can't Say" - and then I knew that nobody was listening, since the station didn't get shut down.

Farewell, George Carlin!

#19 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2008, 11:30 PM:
"My boy, there are thirteen words you must never, never say."

"I thought there were seven."

"Not if you're a sailor!"

Thus did Sponge Bob Square Pants pay tribute to Carlin.

Well, my favorite quote was the one Dan already used, so I must go for the next best:

"Tonight's forecast -- Dark! We'll continue dark throughout the night, with scattered light toward morning."

The man was a genius. Is there a book of his best lines, like The Essential Lenny Bruce? I'd sure like to have that on my shelf.

#20 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2008, 11:42 PM:

Lola Raincoat #18: One night I dropped the needle on "Words You Can't Say" - and then I knew that nobody was listening, since the station didn't get shut down.

If anyone dares to doubt your First Amendment Warrior credentials in the future, just tell that story.

#21 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2008, 11:55 PM:

There are some people who, it seems to me, should just automatically be exempt from death. Jim Henson, Madeline Kahn, and Isaac Asimov were always my big three--now George Carlin joins the list.

I mean, really.

#22 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2008, 12:00 AM:

ethan, i wish it were so. If Bob Tucker hadn't been so sad because of the passing of his beloved wife Fern, I'd add him to that list.

I truly believe Bob passed because she wasn't there for him anymore, so he gave up.

I'm already missing George too.

#23 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2008, 12:07 AM:

William Saroyan supposedly said on his deathbed, "I always knew everyone had to go sometime, but I thought in my case they'd make an exception." I'd have given them Saroyan to keep Carlin.

#24 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2008, 01:51 AM:

As I understand it, he'd been told he was going to be given the Mark Twain award, so at least he knew that, ceremony or no.

I wonder what his response was to being told of that honor. "Oh, shit. I've been validated?"

#25 ::: Edward Oleander ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2008, 04:45 AM:

...(sigh)... He would have turned it into irreverent GOLD! ...(sigh)...

#26 ::: Neil in Chicago ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2008, 09:42 AM:

Ah, kids.
I had Takeoffs and Put-Ons in high school. (And Uncle Shelby's Inside Folk Music.) He was already weird when the hair was still inside.

“In labor news today, longshoremen walked off the piers in New York. Rescue operations continue.

. . . a partial score, Pittsburgh 6.”

(And I don't believe for a minute that he didn't know full well that he was doing God's work.)

#27 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2008, 09:48 AM:

Linkmeister @ 24: I believe his response was, "Thank you, Mr. Twain. Have your people call my people."

#28 ::: sjw ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2008, 10:11 AM:

The world will be a less funny place now.

Or at least, fewer people wil notice, now that George isn't around to point it all out . . .

Nj, ongfurrvg!

#29 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2008, 11:07 AM:

The New York Times has a good appreciation piece in today's paper, and also a piece in the Op-Ed by Jerry Seinfeld:

I couldn’t even count the number of times I’ve been standing around with some comedians and someone talks about some idea for a joke and another comedian would say, “Carlin does it.” I’ve heard it my whole career: “Carlin does it,” “Carlin already did it,” “Carlin did it eight years ago.”

And he didn’t just “do” it. He worked over an idea like a diamond cutter with facets and angles and refractions of light. He made you sorry you ever thought you wanted to be a comedian. He was like a train hobo with a chicken bone. When he was done there was nothing left for anybody.

...I became obsessed with him in the ’60s. As a kid it seemed like the whole world was funny because of George Carlin. His performing voice, even laced with profanity, always sounded as if he were trying to amuse a child. It was like the naughtiest, most fun grown-up you ever met was reading you a bedtime story.

I know George didn’t believe in heaven or hell. Like death, they were just more comedy premises. And it just makes me even sadder to think that when I reach my own end, whatever tumbling cataclysmic vortex of existence I’m spinning through, in that moment I will still have to think, “Carlin already did it.”

I don't generally like Seinfeld that much, but he nailed it this time.
#30 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2008, 12:12 PM:

Personally, I've always been fond of his baseball routine.

I can hear his voice in my head right now.

What a loss.

In other news, last week my favorite high school English teacher died. Another man who loved language and knew how to use it, he taught Shakespeare to snotty teenagers and we loved him for it. In the 70s he came to school nearly every day in tight jeans, turtleneck shirts, and a "leather" (or possibly leather) jacket. He was quite attractive. In his later years he taught philosophy, part time, at Baruch.

Another great loss.

#31 ::: Jonathan Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2008, 01:06 PM:

#30: was that Parker Baratta?

#32 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2008, 01:09 PM:

#31--Yes, it was.

I keep forgetting how many Hunterites read Making Light.

#33 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2008, 02:43 PM:

#16 -

My husband's reaction was "I hope Heaven has room for his stuff."

#34 ::: Edward Oleander ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2008, 04:25 PM:

#14 - Spot on... I heard his riff about the word Fuck just about the same time I got introduced to the Pythons... I walked around for two years intoning, "I am Fuck Of The Mountain!" between renditions of the Lumberjack Song... My Social Studies folder had

Of The

in stylized granite block letters on its front. Almost got me suspended...

...Shit... Carlin and Russert in two weeks... Who took out God's water and stepped on it?

#35 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2008, 07:48 PM:

If there *were* an afterlife, I could picture him there yucking it up with Swift -- joined in a rousing chorus of "Celia shits!"

Meahwhile, we surviving mortals just have to trudge on, with one more light dimmed. Damn it.

#36 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2008, 08:43 PM:

Faren, I was thinking more like Carlin and Twain, trying to top each other with their stories. (And Mike wandering through and putting them both on the floor with one of his.)

#37 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2008, 11:48 PM:

Mr. Conductor. The other Mr. Conductor.

#38 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2008, 10:07 AM:

P J Evans,

Carlin's routines at times were so brilliant you could miss the fact that he was an immensely skilled performer, who could render you helpless with laughter using any material at all. He could say things that were simultaneously deeply, existentially, profound, and silly beyond measure. Seeing Mike Ford and George Carlin together would be like watching world-class brain surgery performed by the Flying Karamazov Brothers while juggling nurses. And singing the Seven Dirty Words to the tune of the Volga Boatmen. The world will be less conscious of itself with him gone. Shit.

"In other news, starving artists ... died today."

#39 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2008, 10:37 PM:

While almost everything I heard from Carlin rang true (even if it offended me, it was always because I deserved it. He might have been wrong, but he was never inaccurate or unreasonable), and he's known for being funny and vulgar (a combination I happen to really like), the one that got me, many years ago when I was about 10 (but still, many years after it aired), was from the cleancut newscaster days. Al Sleet, the Hippy Dippy Weatherman (with all the hippy dippy weather, man) points out:

"The radar is picking up a line of thundershowers which extends from a point 9 miles NNE of Seacaucus, New Jersey, along a line and 6 miles either side of the line to a point 5 miles SSW of Font du Lac.

"However, the radar is also picking up a squadron of Russian ICBMs, so I wouldn't sweat the thundershowers."

Wow. 1967, and making fun of humanity dying off. And being funny. And he isn't here any more to make me rethink my principles and enjoy doing it.

As others have been saying, shit.

#40 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2008, 11:48 AM:

I'm sure everyone has already seen the announcement, but in case you missed it, this week's Saturday Night Live will be a rebroadcast of the very first SNL, hosted by Carlin.

#41 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2008, 01:05 PM:

Melissa, thanks for the heads-up. I hadn't seen that announcement.

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