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Monday, June 23, 2008

R.I.P. George Carlin

When I was a kid, we were one of the only families on the block with cable television way back in 1974. Things were fantastic getting to see TV stations from other cities than mine, which is how cable worked back then. Three years later, Savannah was treated to a new channel to watch called Home Box Office. For the first time, viewers got to see movies they way they were meant to be seen, uncut and commercial free. Mind you back that then HBO wasn't 24 hours like it is now, but began their day around 5 in the afternoon and ended it around 2 am. Still, you got some pretty cool flicks on the air, movies I know I would have never gotten to see in the theaters because of how old I was. The first time I ever saw a nude woman, other than walking in on my sisters by accident in their rooms, was on Home Box Office. Don't ask me what movie it was, but I saw a naked lady in it.

One other thing the channel did was to bring stand up comedy to television with the "On Location" specials. The only time I would see comedy on TV as a kid was through sitcoms and variety shows, but never a whole act. The very first show I got to see was George Carlin at U.S.C. in 1977.i I saw promos for the special and thought it was interesting. I had seen Carlin on The Flip Wilson Show and maybe a few others, so it might be kind of funny. When I finally got to see it, I was stunned. At the time, the only curse words I ever knew in my life was "Damn" and "Hell". I never knew that there were seven, even dirty words out there that I could hear on TV or even use in public. Carlin even taught me how to use them in a sentence! When the show began, I was an eleven year old boy. By the end of the routine and the entire special itself, I became an eleven year old boy who could cuss like a sailor. That's right, folks. You thought that it was Richard Pryor who taught me what I know now. Yes, but it was George Carlin who shaped the mold before it was broken.

Carlin didn't talk about things at all. He talked about "stuff". He talked about placed to keep your "stuff",why do people say "stuff", how come the government does stupid "stuff" and why they sell you dumb "stuff" on TV. In Carlin's view, there were liars, thieves, jerks, fat cats, little cats, jokers, jerks, and the occasional hippy-dippy weather man. All in Carlin's edgy, word full world. Plus, he kept it going on the stage for years. You see some stand ups as they get older and their material is as old as the Magna Carta, while Carlin kept writing and working. He's the only comic to have sixteen HBO stand up specials, then turned around and became Mr. Conductor on "Shining Time Station". Hell, I even watched the show to see if he would ever go off on one of those annoying kids or tell Thomas the Tank Engine to shove it up his smoke pipe.

It's ironic for Carlin to die this year as he was to be honored with a Mark Twain Prize for his comedy, but now it will be a tribute in his honor for making comics become edgier with their material and people become smarter with the world and to rethink everything you may know. I know that he definitely did it with me. I just hope that before he died, he finally made peace with Joe Peschi.

It's a Carlin Joke. If I have to explain it, then you need to watch a special or two and that's no bullshit.

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