Last night I watched the Mark Twain awards show on our local PBS station. The recipient (posthumously) was George Carlin.
A variety of comedians took the stage to reminisce about their experiences with and about George Carlin and his humor.
A lot was said and many clips were shown highlighting his talent, his innovative style and his use of the English language. George Carlin was a believer in precise speech, he deplored euphemisms and continually spoke out against phony political and business rhetoric. He was especially good at satirizing Madison Avenue.
I loved him for his ability to take the simplest thing and turn it into both subtle and blatant commentary on our culture, our society, our spirituality and our politics. He was a genius at this process.
I watched a clip last year in which he unloaded on business and government as one collusional bunch of crooks and liars and worse. It was the bitterest bit I'd ever see him do. I believe that he must have known that his time was limited and he was frustrated at not getting his message out to more people.
He spent his whole life making fun of who we are and what we do in most creative ways. From the hippy-dippy weatherman on his first appearance on Carson to the great poetic peaces using today's buzz words from the advertising industry he was always relative and always provocative.
A lot of people from my generation remember him for the "7 Words you can't say on TV." While the bit is hilarious, it doesn't seem as relevant to us today because a lot of us use those words in everyday speech. (Me more than most when I get mad) At the time he did this routine it was very funny and very relevant.
I watched the comedians' demeanors last night as they spoke about Carlin and was both surprised and pleased to note that the only one that almost broke down (not once, but twice) was Lewis Black, surely the most profane and outspoken of our modern day stand-up comics.
George Carlin must have been one hell of guy to get Black close to tears. I think we've all been enriched by the time Carlin spent with us on this earth and I hope we'll understand that guys like him only come along once in a lifetime.
Here's a little something to remember him by: