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A Place for his Stuff
2008-06-23 05:25
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

I was ten when my parents split up. My mother broke the news to us in the car after dropping my father off at the Metro North Station. My twin sister and younger brother were in the back seat.  I was in the passenger seat. When she was finished telling us the what was going to happen, I turned to her and said, "Don't worry, Mom, I'll take care of you now."

We grew up quickly over the next few years. My father started dating a woman who lived on the same block as my grandparents on the Upper West Side, and soon they were living together. She was good to us, gave us sex education tips without shame or titilation--straight, blunt, sound advice. I remember seeing a shiny box, The Devil in Miss Jones, next to the other videos on a shelf in her bedroom, but I never had the nerve to watch it on the sly.

Everything was grown-up. When we visited my dad, we hung around adults.

Perhaps the most important discovery I made in her apartment was when I pulled a record from the shelf with a picture of a hippie sitting on a stool. The record was AM/FM, the lp that won a Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album and the one that put George Carlin on the map for good. It wasn't a racy record--heck, by this point, we had Eddie Murphy to idolize--and it was dated, filled-with Vietnam Era references that I didn't understand. But it had curse words as well as Carlin's elastic imagination, nibble word-play, and funny-sounding voices. Carlin sounded like a grown-up kid.  Friendly, approachable, caustic, but decent.

We were hooked. I can't tell you how much material I swiped from Carlin and claimed as my own when I was a kid.  Later, Carlin's follow-up records, Class Clown and Occupation Foole became like the Torah for me (I still remember my old man taking us to King Carole Records on the west side; I proudly selected Toledo Window Box). There is his legendary routine about the seven words you can't say on Television, and who'll ever forget his contribution to the debate between football and baseball?

For years, in high school and throughout college, I would go to sleep with the sounds of a comedy record playing in the background. Bill Cosby and Carlin were always good choices--Mel Brooks and Richard Pryor were too lively for that time of night. I must have listened to "Occupation Foole" five hundred times easily. I know Carlins' inflections, the rhythms of his voice, his faces, all of his characters, as well as I know a member of the family.

So, it is a sad Monday morning as George Carlin passed away yesterday at the age of 71. That is too young. He was from Morningside Heights in Manhattan and he ranks up there with Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor as one of the Giants of stand-up comedy.

I want to take this moment to thank him for everything he gave me.  He made me feel grown when I was a kid, and has made me feel young as I've gotten older.

Comments
2008-06-23 06:28:23
1.   Adam B
RIP George, you opened my eyes to a lot
2008-06-23 06:42:28
2.   Patrick
Nice post, Alex.

Rest in peace.

2008-06-23 06:51:11
3.   Alex Belth
I wish I had more time to reflect on it...it just caught me off-guard, first thing in the morning. Really does feel like a member of the family passing. And to be honest, I wasn't really digging most of what Carlin has done for the past twenty years. He became more acerbic, hostile, as he got older. Still, give him credit for coming up with new material and not just resting on his greatest hits from the 70s.
2008-06-23 06:57:00
4.   Raf
3 He became more acerbic, hostile, as he got older.

I actually liked his "grumpy old man" schtick.

It caught me off guard as well; first thing I heard this morning on 1010-WINS.

2008-06-23 07:09:42
5.   Alex Belth
I think it might have been George getting cranky, but also reflected the change in the cultural climate. Once things got PC and more and more conservative, there was nothing for George to do but howl.
2008-06-23 07:10:48
6.   OldYanksFan
Jeez... I didn't know George had passed.
Thanks for the tribute Alex. To my mind, he was the funniest stand-up comedian in my lifetime. And I agree that Cosby what in there too... and all with squeaky clean material (Snakes?).

I remember my group of friends going over to Les's apartment, seriously boneing (boning?) up, and listening to AM/FM 3 times in a row. We were laughing so hard, it took at least three passes to hear everything. And even when you knew what was coming, it was just as funnier, if not funnier, then the first time you heard it. Les worked at a record store, so whenever a new Carlin album came out, that night, we all headed over to Les's, for a night of hysteria.

Class Clown with the Nuns... brilliant.
His later material, as he got more political and cynicle.... amazing. I think there could be a college where all the classes listened to, discussed, and analyzed George's material. The guy saw the world straight on. Almost everything he said was dead on truth.

His 'stuff' about public executions during football game's half time? Just Brilliant! Too funny!

One of his funniest lines came on the Carson show. At the time, he was at the top of his game, and Carson was talking about how him and Pryor were the 2 greatest comedians going. With that, George agree, and went into something that went like this:

Carlin: Yeah Johnny.. thanks... but ya know, me and Richard have a little competition going.
Carson: Really... I didn't know.
Carlin: Yup... little competition to see who could outdo the other.
Carson: And how's that going?
Carlin: Well ya know, Richard went out and had a heart attack. So, not to be outdone... I went out and had a heart attack. But then, Richard did set himself on fire! Well hell, I ain't no dummy.... so I just went out and had another heart attack!

And of course, all perfectly true.

RIP George. I can't believe you are gone. I wonder if you know just how good you were.

2008-06-23 07:12:17
7.   mehmattski
For the perspective that he himself would want you to have on this day:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3PiZSFIVFiU

Screaming up at us, indeed.

2008-06-23 07:25:10
8.   OldYanksFan
3 5 Alex, I think George was just really pissed that we were given such a great world, and yet kept fucking it up. He was angry. People don't like angry. But just look at recent politics, especially the last 8 years. Shouldn't we be angry? I mean, just how much can our govenment screw up before we the people get angry?

George was an intelligent guy, but not afraid to be angry. We were very angry in the 1770's. There was certainly some anger in the 1960's. But I haven't seen a lot of anger since. Too many good toys to amuse us I guess. Too much 'Reality TV'.

But anger can be a very good thing when it comes to asessing our government and industry. It is reallu a shame that it has to be couched in humor and satire in order to be heard.

It's easier to be funny about farting and fucking. Not so much about Enron, the war, sanctioned torture, taking away human rights, Halliburton and wire tapping.

And now George is not around to keep reminding us. And we really need to constantly be reminded. That is not a good thing.

2008-06-23 07:26:14
9.   dianagramr
Thanks for the post Alex. I was gonna do the same on Humbug, but you said it so well.

I still fondly remember the one time I saw him live in concert, at St. John's University of all places (I was a student at the time).

Clad in a black "I survived Catholic School" t-shirt, he had the crowd howling for the majority of the night .... UNTILLLLL ...
he went into the "7 dirty words" bit, followed by a recitation of every known word for coitus, whereupon some uppity, knickers in a knot folks walked out. (What were they expecting, Dickinson?). Later that week, the school newspaper focused on the "controversy" more than his performance.

I agree with all who have stated that his later years saw him turn "grumpy" and "angry". Given the way (his) country was going, I could understand why.

RIP George, and thanks for being one-of-a-kind and never censoring yourself.

2008-06-23 07:30:33
10.   Bob Timmermann
But what will Mike Barnicle do for columns now?
2008-06-23 07:32:40
11.   Bob Timmermann
I would add that to this day, when I think I lose something, I always check in the shower.
2008-06-23 07:37:00
12.   OldYanksFan
7 Thanks. Never saw that. Man.... I MISS YOU GEORGE!
"Imagine Grandma... baking pies... with no oven"
2008-06-23 07:51:26
13.   OldYanksFan
The NYT has a decent article on George. I thought this was a very good line, in terms of George's anger.

Although some criticized parts of his later work as too contentious, Mr. Carlin defended the material, insisting that his comedy had always been driven by an intolerance for the shortcomings of humanity and society. "Scratch any cynic," he said, "and you'll find a disappointed idealist."

2008-06-23 07:57:49
14.   dianagramr
I privately sent this list of Carlin quotes to Alex, and he asked that I post it here .... enjoy!
=============================
When cheese gets it's picture taken, what does it say?

When someone asks you, A penny for your thoughts, and you put your two cents in,
what happens to the other penny?

If lawyers are disbarred and clergymen defrocked, doesn't it follow that electricians
can be delighted, musicians denoted?

When someone is impatient and says, "I haven't got all day," I always
wonder, How can that be? How can you not have all day?

I thought about how mothers feed their babies with tiny little spoons and forks
so I wondered, what do Chinese mothers use? Toothpicks?

If a pig loses its voice, is it disgruntled?

Is a vegetarian permitted to eat animal crackers?

What if there were no hypothetical questions?

Frisbeetarianism is the belief that when you die, your soul goes up on the roof
and gets stuck.

Some national parks have long waiting lists for camping reservations. When you have
to wait a year to sleep next to a tree, something is wrong.

Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish, and he will
sit in a boat and drink beer all day.

Before they invented drawing boards, what did they go back to?

Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday.

Why do croutons come in airtight packages? It's just stale bread to begin with.

I have as much authority as the Pope, I just don't have as many people who believe
it.

May the forces of evil become confused on the way to your house.

Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone
going faster than you is a maniac?

If the #2 pencil is the most popular, why is it still #2?

I think it would be interesting if old people got anti-Alzheimer's disease where
they slowly began to recover other people's lost memories.

Electricity is really just organized lightning.

Women like silent men, they think they're listening.

"I am" is reportedly the shortest sentence in the English language. Could
it be that "I do" is the longest sentence?

Men are from Earth, women are from Earth. Deal with it.

If all the world is a stage, where is the audience sitting?

Well, if crime fighters fight crime and fire fighters fight fire, what do freedom
fighters fight? They never mention that part to us, do they?

Honesty may be the best policy, but it's important to remember that apparently,
by elimination, dishonesty is the second-best policy.

I recently went to a new doctor and noticed he was located in something called the
Professional Building. I felt better right away.

Why is the man (or woman) who invests all your money called a broker?

I'm completely in favor of the separation of Church and State. My idea is that
these two institutions screw us up enough on their own, so both of them together
is certain death.

There's no present. There's only the immediate future and the recent past.

At a formal dinner party, the person nearest death should always be seated closest
to the bathroom.

As a matter of principle, I never attend the first annual anything.

The very existence of flame-throwers proves that some time, somewhere, someone said
to themselves, You know, I want to set those people over there on fire, but I'm
just not close enough to get the job done.

Death is caused by swallowing small amounts of saliva over a long period of time.

Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider
than that.

I think it's the duty of the comedian to find out where the line is drawn and
cross it deliberately.

The only good thing ever to come out of religion was the music.

Religion convinced the world that there's an invisible man in the sky who watches
everything you do. And there's 10 things he doesn't want you to do or else
you'll go to a burning place with a lake of fire until the end of eternity.
But he loves you! ...And he needs money! He's all powerful, but he can't
handle money!

This is a lttle prayer dedicated to the separation of church and state. I guess
if they are going to force those kids to pray in schools they might as well have
a nice prayer like this: Our Father who art in heaven, and to the republic for which
it stands, thy kingdom come, one nation indivisible as in heaven, give us this day
as we forgive those who so proudly we hail. Crown thy good into temptation but deliver
us from the twilight's last gleaming. Amen and Awomen.

2008-06-23 08:31:43
15.   Rich Lederer
Good post, Alex.

Carlin was one of the two funniest comedians of my childhood and young adulthood. The other being Bill Cosby. Both made light of everyday situations but in a different manner, which made liking them all the more enjoyable. The one was more wholesome, the other more blunt with little or no filter. But, boy, they were both geniuses.

I always thought George was at his best when focusing on words. He was a master of the English language. I first saw him when I was in college (probably in 1976) and went to several more performances over the years (all at different venues). In fact, he might be the only act I ever saw in four different decades. His routine grew tired because it seemed as if he got nastier and more political while using profanity in a way that was no longer humorous. However, his full body of work is such that I can dismiss the crotchety old Carlin and remember the guy who entertained me as much as anyone else in my lifetime.

RIP, George.

2008-06-23 08:45:45
16.   Just fair
I 1st heard George on the sly in the mid-eighties, when I was in grammar school. I had to keep the tv down real low so my dad in the next room wouldn't know I was watching. Even though he was watching Carliin's bit, too. Over the last 10 years or so I always had to let me old man know when he had a new HBO special premiering. My dad and I don't talk a whole heck of a lot, but we could always talk about sports and Carlin. What else is there, I guess.
R.I.P George.
If you can, let us know where you are. : )
2008-06-23 09:08:31
17.   Chien Music
I too use to listen to Carlin and Cosby records back in the sixties. I think it was Carlin (although it might have been Cosby) who commented how when people saw a person in a casket they would often comment "Doesn't he look like himself?" No he looks dead.
Fortunately, I got a chance to finally see George a few years ago and although he was quite crude,he was still very funny. I've always been a fan of irreverent comedy (The Simpsons is my favorite show and despite my age, I really enjoy South Park) and George was the most irreverent of all.
As far as his anger goes, like the bumper sticker says: "If you are not angry, you are not paying attention". It's sad that we no longer have George to help us pay attention.
2008-06-23 09:14:17
18.   weeping for brunnhilde
So sad.

Rest in peace, George Carlin.

2008-06-23 09:19:32
19.   pistolpete
My parents had just about every Cosby record when I was growing up, so I was more into him and never really got into Carlin until I was older and started catching some of his HBO specials in the late 80's. By then he was already into the 'I hate this/ This pisses me off' phase of his career, so I guess someday I owe it to myself to check out the early stuff.

A brilliant funny man who will be missed by all.

RIP George.

2008-06-23 09:29:37
20.   Bagel Boy
Shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, and tits.

(Not meant to reduce him to that. It's just always a nice reminder of the society we live in.)

RIP. God must have needed a new laugh.

2008-06-23 09:56:00
21.   dianagramr
http://www.npr.org/templates/player/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=4136881&m=4136882

2004 NPR interview with Carlin ...

2008-06-23 10:04:12
22.   Chyll Will
14 Thanks for that diana, it helps...

We laugh to keep from crying, but in a sane world we would cry to keep from laughing.

2008-06-23 10:43:13
23.   Alex Belth
17, that was Cosby who made that joke.
2008-06-23 10:44:26
24.   El Lay Dave
As for Carlin becoming "acerbic, hostile", "angry", "cranky" in more recent times (as he grew older), I will admit that I understand those emotions/reactions better as I age as well.

15 "word play" + 20 : "you can prick your finger, but don't finger your prick."

2008-06-23 11:12:48
25.   OldYanksFan
20 And 'Tits' don't even deserve to be on that list. It's such a friendly word. Tits. Sounds a little like a snack food. Nabisco Cheese Tits. Tater Tits. Bet you can't eat just one.
2008-06-23 12:09:13
26.   Matt B
As much as I agreed with a lot of his social commentary, it was his passion for language that really hooked me on Carlin. I loved how he could look at a word from so many angles. They were tangible things to him.
2008-06-23 12:39:14
27.   Alex Belth
Matt B, as usual you are so on point it hurts. I agree completely with what you just wrote. Thanks for that.
2008-06-23 12:41:13
28.   scareduck
I can't think of George Carlin without thinking of the Dr. Demento Show, on which I heard so many of his best pieces. Carlin was a real comedic genius, and I feel like I'm building an echo chamber when I say that his command of the language was unparalleled. RIP, George.
2008-06-23 12:46:57
29.   Alex Belth
Dr. Demento! You are showing your age, bro. Here, here.

Wino Time, Bing Bong, five minutes past the big hour of five o'clock.

2008-06-23 14:00:56
30.   Adam B
I find it funny that a majority of the commenters here are older than my ripe age of 22, and yet I enjoy the bitter Carlin as well. Perhaps it's because of the political era I've grown up in.

I'll always be proud that I used this following Carlin quote in my high school yearbook: "I've got this moronic thing I do that's called thinking, and I'm not a very good American because I like to form my own opinions."

2008-06-23 18:57:49
31.   fordprefect
28 29

Wonderful WINO!!!!!!

God, I'll miss him like I''d miss my best friend.

2008-06-23 19:13:47
32.   3rd gen yankee fan
Ah, what a shame.

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