Monday, June 23, 2008

George Carlin

A lot of what I learned about writing, performing and comedy had nothing to do with theater but instead came from a tidy collection of comedy records collected by my parents ranging from Jonathan Winters to Eddie Murphy. One very prominent member of this collection was George Carlin, whose albums FM&AM, Occupation Foole, Class Clown on Toldeo Window Box had a rather disturbingly high rotation in my childhood listenings, perhaps learning the 7 words you shouldn't say on Television a bit too early in my youth (thus all the clever cussing in my plays). I would often play records to get myself to sleep, enabling their power to penetrate even deeper into my subconscious, and Carlin was in steady rotation for my nighttime playing.

Carlin, throughout his career, was a master of language. It was his obsession. He loved to deconstruct everyday phrases and sayings and illuminate their ridiculosity. The seven words sketch is still pretty fucking hilarious today, and feels just as relevant as when it was recorded. (As he says, tits does not even belong on the list) As Carlin got older and more sober, his routines became angrier, but often still hilarious, but I still hold a preference for his hippie dippie mellow delivery of the old recordings which nicely contrasted the intensity of his language. He was always aware of the power of the words he used.

anyhoo, I think he had a huge influence on my sense of humor and approach to comedy, language, and how to keep an audience surprised and laughing.

Thanks, George!


Anonymous Melissa Frinch said...

I will miss the old curmudgeon too. Like you, I preferred the playfulness of his hippie days to the bitterness of his recent years, but it all was good. I think I'd like to imagine him enjoying a skewer of jumbo shrimp in some sort of comedian afterworld.

9:11 AM  
Anonymous greg moss said...

I started listening to these records (and other similar comedy LPs, like Richard Pryor's stuff) from a very early, age and also used 'em as bedtime stories...his rhythms and use of language, his sense of the absurd, and his political irreverence were enormously influential for me. He's the last in a line of American performers that started with Lenny Bruce...who does anything like that anymore?

10:36 AM  

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