Monday, June 23, 2008

More Than Just a Comic

R.I.P. George Carlin

George Carlin died last night of heart failure. He was 71 years old. Carlin didn't just make people laugh. As his Wikipedia entry points out, "Carlin's most recent stand-up routines focused on the flaws in modern-day America. He often took on contemporary political issues in the United States and satirized the excesses of American culture."

As a disciple of the great Lenny Bruce his routines relied heavily on exposing those hypocrisies that are normally taboo to talk about. Like Bruce he was a social critic - he not only entertained, he enlightened. He was in that regard a scientist of the human condition, drawing his conclusions not on any preconceived dogma, but directly from observation and experience.

Carlin has been described as Lenny's heir. He may even have surpassed him. "He placed second on the Comedy Central cable television network list of the 10 greatest stand-up comedians, ahead of Bruce and behind Richard Pryor." (Wiki again) The proof of that comes not from Carlin's wins of Grammy Awards and the Mark Twain Prize for American humor, but from the fact that he was arrested on obscenity charges in the 1970s. Like Bruce, he pissed off the powerful and became a target. Like Bruce, he knowingly and willingly took that risk.

The best tribute to an entertainer is to give him a stage, so here is some of his best stuff:
The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider freeways , but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness.
We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.

We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life. We’ve added years to life not life to years. We’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We conquered outer space but not inner space. We’ve done larger things, but not better things.
Remember; spend some time with your loved ones, because they are not going to be around forever.
Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe, because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side.
Remember, to give a warm hug to the one next to you, because that is the only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn’t cost a cent.
Remember, to say, “I love you” to your partner and your loved ones, but most of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from deep inside of you.
Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday that person will not be there again.

Give time to love, give time to speak! And give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind.


Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.
Here's a recent bit that shows Carlin at his unruly best, cutting through the bullshit and exposing mainstream talking points for the craptastic steaming pile that they are:

"I'll tell you what they don't want -

they don't want a population of citizens
capable of critical thinking."

And finally, fittingly;

George Carlin on Death

More from the Station Agent at Ice Station Tango

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