Thursday, June 26, 2008

Remembering George Carlin

I first noticed George Carlin back in high school in the late 1960's-early 1970's. He was the "Hippy Dippy Weatherman," the "Stupid Disc Jockey," and the cousin of one of my classmates. Of course I didn't hear his routine about "The 7 Words You Can't Say on Television" until much later, when I was an adult and married and we had HBO. I remember thinking it was raunchy and outrageous and funny.

Then there was his routine about "Stuff." Hubs and I had just bought our first house and were in the process of consolidating our old "Stuff" and accumulating new "Stuff" (a process which hasn't stopped). His routine about the differences between baseball and football was dead on, even though I'm more of a football fan, myself. I loved the way he "ran home."

I'm not surprised to hear that he had issues with the Catholic Church. Most comedians of his era had problems with authority of any stripe and, of course, God is the Ultimate Authority. I was a bit surprised to hear he'd been married only twice--his first wife died of cancer. So however misanthropic and nihilistic his public persona was, he must have been different in private. I think some of that private persona came through in Jersey Girl, where he plays the gruff-but-loving father and grandfather. (I found it interesting that the granddaughter goes to Catholic School, although the family is never seen going to Mass.)

As for Carlin's anti-Catholicism... Personally, I thought his turn as the cardinal in Dogma was funny. The cardinal is trying to re-market the Catholic Church by introducing "The Buddy Jesus" and making the Church "hipper" and "more relevant." His character reminded me a lot of the early-post Vatican II days, exaggerated for comedic effect. And Carlin played it, I thought, like someone who had been raised in the Church, who knew about the dashboard Jesus and St. Christopher medals and who wanted to skewer that kind of obsession with symbols. Was it more vicious than that? Possibly. But I hadn't seen any of Carlin's recent stand-up routines or interviews, so I don't know.

In fact, I haven't kept up with George Carlin in recent years. He was not a comedian I sought out, whose routines I listened to regularly. Until I read the tributes to him, I didn't realize he was still doing stand-up and that so much of it was angry. But he was part the milieu of my adolescence--his death is another reminder that I'm getting old.

R.I.P, George.

crossposted at The Mad Tea Party

1 comment:

Elizabeth Kathryn Gerold-Miller said...

I did enjoy many of Carlin's routines, especially the ones about STUFF. His last HBO special was rather bitter and angry, and in it he suggested a reality TV show in which people committed suicide. I am surprised he has children because he often spoke of them as brats noone wants to have around and that should have been contracepted. As HBO aired several of his old shows in his honor, I caught one in which he opened up stating clearly that he was pro-choice and then proceeded with a joke about how pro-life woman are generally too ugly for anyone to want to f-. I was quite put off by this, to say the least. In another bit he declared his belief that God gives you a 2-minute warning before you die. I hope for his sake that he was right and that he got a chance to make his peace in the end.