Monday, June 23, 2008

"Death is Caused by Swallowing Small Amounts of Saliva Over a Long Period of Time"


When I was a kid, I spent quite a bit of time surreptitiously rifling through my uncle's record collection. He was heavily into Sly and the Family Stone, The Who and Fleetwood Mac, and my stealth missions to his turntable were always edifying -- making me feel like I was getting just a tiny taste of the music and culture I already appreciated and would soon come to love inside and out.

I stood in awe of the kind of stuff my uncle listened to.

But nothing prepared me for the first time I snuck off with his copy of George Carlin's 1974 album Toledo Window Box.

Honestly -- it was a revelation.

I'd never heard anything so clever, so brash, so sly, so acerbic -- or anyone so skillful at filtering his indignation through seemingly harmless wordplay, so absolutely goddamned funny. The only word I could come up with, even at the time, was "genius." I grew up worshipping at the altar of Carlin for years after that early indoctrination; he was everything I wanted to be, and remained that way throughout his lifetime -- right up until his death yesterday at the age of 71.

The irony that I can't find the words to describe my heartbreak, when he probably would've had no trouble doing so, isn't lost on me.

Just know this: Anyone who currently uses a public forum to comment on the general absurdity of life, and tries to be mildly entertaining doing it, owes a debt of gratitude to George Carlin -- one that can never be fully repaid.

He was one of my idols, and today the world feels like a less educated -- and infinitely less funny -- place without him.

26 comments:

heatherhansma said...

Since I received the news I have been wondering what jokes he would make at the placement of his headline next to the absurd news headlines CNN.com places at the top of their page... Fuck. I'm going to miss him.

Riles said...

So sad. What shitty news to start off a week. Guh.

dammitjanet said...

Here is what I think.....
http://youlookfunny.blogspot.com/


sucks....first Hunter, now George

Fifth Generation Leftist said...

Since I saw this last night I've been thinking of my late father...he's now joined by his personal quartet of funny, Lenny Bruce, Red Foxx, Richard Pryor, and Geore Carlin. He and my uncle Frank, let me see the special on HBO when I was 11, with a solumn oath not to tell my mother.

Michael J. West said...

All day I've been thinking about a remark I once heard Carlin make about his own approach to standup. Someone asked him if he wanted to make his audience think. "Oh, God, no," Carlin replied. "That would be the Kiss of Death. What I want is to let them know that I'm thinking for them."

Can't imagine a better epitaph than that.

Mr. Controversy said...

I turned on the news this morning, and this was the first thing I saw on the news. Not a good way to start the morning, he will be greatly missed.

mrcontroversy.blogspot.com

Steve said...

If he were to write his own photo caption, would it be "dead hippie comic George Carlin"?

Sorry to see you go, George. Thanks for the laughs.

Marsupialus said...

I'm wondering about the circumstances of his death because I've been in that emergency room for the exact same reason: complaining of chest pains with a history of heart trouble. They're pretty attentive in there and used to celebrity patients.

Mike said...

I know it's poor form to link to your own blog, but hey, it'd be a long ass comment if I cut and pasted the whole thing:

http://idealist-cynic.blogspot.com/2008/06/i-think-its-duty-of-comedian-to-find.html

I'm just thankful that I got to see him live just once.

A2racers said...

My first experience with The Great Carlin was, "The Icebox Man", and I never looked back. I'll always owe a debt of gratitude to him, he helped shape my sense of humor, and always had a point of view that should have been common-sense based, only it wasn't common enough.

George, I'm officially making Meat-Cake for dinner tonight. Here's to hoping you are now haunting the dreams of M.N. Shyamalan, he could use some good material.

You are already missed.

ian in hamburg said...

For me his best album will always be Occupation: Foole. Best record I ever had stolen.

em said...

Gah. He was supposed to do some shows here in Chicago in the fall, and I'm incredibly bummed about not being able to get the chance to see him live. RIP.

Anonymous said...

Along with Bill Hicks he was one of my 3 favorites. Funny enough I'm catching the only one still alive tonight in New Orleans, Eddie Izzard.

Steve & Stepher said...

What a tragic loss.

We were incredibly fortunate to see him perform in February. Best tickets I ever had for anything in my life. Front row, center. The Flickr set may be seen here --

http://www.flickr.com/photos/_s_t_e_p_h_e_r_/sets/72157603969213588/

Anonymous said...

The seven words I never wanted to say online: George Carlin died of a heart attack.

Terry Heaton said...

Amen, Chez. Now let's see if he gets the same kind of send-off the press gave to Tim Russert. Carlin was a MAJOR cultural force for my generation, and I doubt there's a single life he didn't influence.

jonny muggs said...

i have been trying to think of a way to eulogize the man all day. the best i can come up with is to eat an entire wicker furniture set and then go cut loose the kind of fart that would strip the varnish from a footlocker while casually reaching for a copy of golf digest in a cruising airplane, causing everyone around me to head for the exits.

Sheriff Bart said...

He now leads Richard Pryor 3-1 in heart attacks.
However Richard still leads him 1-0 in burning yourself up.

Fare well, George.
God DAMN were you funny.

Trixi said...

Smart funny is the best funny. What a wordsmith. Sad news, indeed.

MelodyLane said...

I loved his standup. Hell, he made me laugh anytime I was aware of him. His appearance in Dogma as the cardinal who made Buddy Jesus remains the best part of the movie.

RIP Mr. Carlin. You were too damned funny and a lot of us people out there needed you. You will be sorely missed.

kalei said...

another tragic loss in this world.

SHIT PISS FUCK CUNT COCKSUCKER MOTHERFUCKER TITS!

lakelady said...

while it may feel less educated and less funny George would be the first to remind you that it isn't. I listened to an interview with him today on NPR's "Fresh Air" and he had no fear or anxiousness about death - just didn't want to go because he was loving life so much. As he would say he's just gone back to being part of everything now - and so let us all breathe in a bit of that stardust and take up the slack left by his absence and all be a bit more witty and full of no-nonsense common sense. It's the best way to pay him tribute.

Harris said...

I used my position of the school yearbook (NERD!) as an excuse to catch him in concert while I was in college. He must have been about 60 then and he was still razor sharp. On the other hand, Chez thinks Richard Jeni is a comic genius too, which makes me question my own taste.

Anonymous said...

I'm right there with you, honey. Words cannot express how much I'll miss his particular lack of bullshit. Especially in an election year.

Anonymous said...

Your Uncle and you were not the only ones who loved George.
Your cousin, until the day he died also, idolized him. As a matter of fact, I never knew who George Carlin was until one day, I sat in the bedroom with my brother, while he was in bed dying. There was George on a VHS tape and my brother, laughing so hard. It is one the greatest memories I have of both.
George Carlin was brillant. He made us all laugh. He spoke his mind, gee, just as you do.
Just as I hated to see my brother leave us, and just as sad I was yesterday to hear the news, I would hate even more, if you went anywhere Chez.

britta is an asshole said...

i was really lucky to have met and hung out with him several times. he used to come in to the recording studio i worked at in the late 80s. besides tracking and mixing, we used to do audio and video duplication and he would occasionally use our services. i basically helped him make mix tapes of old soul music, so we spent a number of hours together, just shooting the shit and listening to cool music. i rarely ask celebrities for pictures or autographs, but i had made an exception for george the first time i met him, as he was one of my heroes. rather than sign piece of paper for me, he said that he would send me a signed photo the next day. thinking that he'd be far too busy to remember something like that, i was stunned when he actually returned in person the next day with an assortment of photos, asking me to pick my favorite one. not only was he one of the funniest people on the planet, he was also an incredibly sweet, down to earth, and cool guy. thanks for letting me share my memories of him here. i will miss him terribly.