Be aware that below the fold, there’s a ton of videos embedded directly from Youtube. I expect anyone who plans on reading this post, devote at least an hour so you can watch every one of them. You are not paying George Carlin’s memory any honour otherwise.
The media has been rife these past few days with tributes to a personal hero of mine. One would think that’s a good thing — it’s vindicating to have a personal hero lauded in the media, right? So why is it I’m left with a bitter taste in my mouth, every single time someone on television or in the papers gushes about what an avant-garde, counterculture, brilliant comedian he was?
It probably has something to do with the fact that I don’t consider him a comedian. He was a truth-teller. And that’s why I, alongside the rest of the world, mourn his death.
It also has to do with the fact that every single article I’ve read on his passing (and oh, how he would revile that term! He didn’t pass, he DIED), references without fail his Seven Words You Can’t Say on Television:
And the follow-up:
Okay. I admit these are good. Not good in the “hur hur, he said bad words” way — they’re biting social commentary. Why are these words, compared to all the rest of the words that exist, “bad”? Why are some words that someone considers bad, other people in other languages consider perfectly acceptable? Because there is no meaning to any particular word save for what we as a people agree to give it. Words are symbols, representations of ideas, and are not imbued with any more power than we give them. And he dared, in a time when conservatism was first gaining its stranglehold on the media, to speak these words aloud. He was once arrested and let out on $150 bail for disturbing the peace for speaking these words. Which means, in my books, that he was a brave enough motherfucker to stand up to the status quo and say, hey, fuck you, cocksuckers, I like tits and cunts, not boobs and hoo-hahs, and I will piss and shit, not pee and poop.
Okay. I had to work to get all seven into that sentence. I’m evidently not as talented in their use as he was. But the point is, this was a direct affront on conservatism, on “morality” in television broadcasts. The fact that these words were censored implies that the powers-that-be were attempting to protect their children from ever having their virgin ears sullied by them. But what happens when you make something taboo? What happens when you prohibit something? Does it disappear, never to be seen again? Or does it spring up regardless, like weeds on your perfectly manicured lawn? One only has to look at the “success” of alcohol prohibition, or of the current War On (Some) Drugs.
It isn’t the only attack on the media, conservatism, and other various and sundry hypocrisies of our society. Just look at his take on The Invisible Man. Carlin on religion (specifically, Christianity):
Carlin then reduces the Ten Commandments to TWO (as the Youtube post’s title states, an excellent example of defragging):
And this isn’t the only example of him taking on the right wing (which he was, in those videos, considering how closely tied organized religion and conservatism have become). He’s done it in a more direct form as well. His take on abortions:
Which flows directly into “the sanctity of life”:
And on rampant consumerism:
… and war:
… and the truth about America as the tyranny it is today:
Not that liberals got a pass either, as he says it’s impossible for him to leave people alone who take themselves too seriously:
I can honestly say that every shot he’s taken at the “good guys'” side, was well deserved, and there’s a reason for that — he wasn’t specifically a liberal, even if he damn sure wasn’t a conservative. He was a truth-teller. He took aim and fired salvos with all cannons at bullshit, wherever it was.
The only thing that kept him from being assassinated, I think, for knowing what was going on and saying so, was the label he took on himself of being a comic. He threw a few jokes in now and then, to keep up appearances.
But when he let the veneer drop, let his shields down, and spoke nothing but the unvarnished truth at us from his seat within our teevee boxes, he was at his best. (Apologies for the longer than normal Keith Olbermann lead-in.)
It saddens me that I’ve only really known of him and understood him for the past few years. And it saddens me that most of those who are lauding him hardly know his ideas, his message. They’re just, in essence, paying lip service to his having pushed the boundaries. I think that’s why I’m writing this — I want everyone else to understand, to “get it”. I feel it’s the least I can do.
Goodbye, George. Rest in peace motherfucker.