Editorial: Say goodbye to George Carlin, one of the greats
You might not like him, you might think he was just a dirty, foul-mouthed old man – and in his later years, you might actually have been right – but there is no doubt that the death of 71-year-old George Carlin over the weekend leaves a lot of hearts heavy.
For journalists, Carlin was a true champion of free speech. Almost everyone is familiar with his “Seven Dirty Words You Can’t Say on TV” routine, and while a lot of people only remember it for the way he rapidly strung all seven words together, people forget that the whole purpose of the sketch was to illustrate how ridiculous it is to single out just those seven words.
And Carlin made an entire career out of pointing out ridiculous – and mostly hilarious – things about America: casual observation about how baseball is very peaceful, and football is almost based on war, an exhaustive list of things that irked him and his pet peeves about the way people drive.
But while musicians like the Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen can last decades in the music industry on the strength of their hits, comedians aren’t nearly as lucky. Carlin kept himself vital and funny for more than four decades in an industry where most comics are forgotten after their first Comedy Central special, and that is a feat to be celebrated.
In his later years, several of Carlin’s HBO specials were characterized by critics as merely the crotchety complaints of an old man – and to some extent, there is some truth to that – but no one’s gripes could elicit as much belly-laughter as Carlin’s. He and Bill Cosby were the last of the Great Old-School Comics, and for our money, Carlin is right up there with Richard Pryor in the pantheon of comics that shocked, broke barriers and still managed to make people roll in the aisles.
Even if you found the extensive cussing offensive, early Carlin was just as hilarious, and as clean as any Bill Cosby album. So pull out that dusty copy of “Toledo Window Box” and laugh along with the master.
Sussex (Del.) Countian