Allison Kilkenny: Unreported

George Carlin: Comic, Artist, Fearless, Old Bastard

Posted in censorship, comedy by allisonkilkenny on June 23, 2008

George Carlin: May 12, 1937-June 22, 2008

Carlin was arrested because of his “Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television.” He was charged with violating “obscenity laws.”

In 1973, a man complained to the FCC that his son had heard a later, similar routine, “Filthy Words”, from Occupation: Foole, broadcast one afternoon over WBAI, a Pacifica Foundation FM radio station in New York City. Pacifica received a citation from the FCC, which sought to fine Pacifica for allegedly violating FCC regulations which prohibited broadcasting “obscene” material. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the FCC action, by a vote of 5 to 4, ruling that the routine was “indecent but not obscene”, and the FCC had authority to prohibit such broadcasts during hours when children were likely to be among the audience.

Carlin was the first-ever host of NBC’s Saturday Night Live, debuting on October 11, 1975.

Carlin: By Jamie Kilstein

“I think it’s the duty of the comedian to find out where the line is drawn and cross it deliberately.” -G.C.

Watching standup on TV today you would think the quote was “I think the duty of the comedian is to find the line, then run from that line as fast as humanly possible, hide behind a nearby tree, then write that family comedy spec-script you’ve been kicking around for years.”

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When Carlin and Bruce were playing dives, standup was still counter-culture. You could get arrested for speaking. They got arrested for speaking. George used to be a wacky-faced suit-and-tie observational standup until the day he saw Lenny Bruce — until he saw what standup could truly be: the art of pushing peoples’ buttons. I know a lot of people felt the same way when they saw Carlin for the first time. That “oh shit” moment when you realize you’re a fraud and everything you’re doing is dogshit. Many comics ran home to their notebooks after hearing Carlin talk about drugs, censorship, or religion. Most, after that long night of soul-searching, got on stage two days later and talked about their girlfriends’ periods, completely selling out last night’s soul, instead opting for the easy road to Nowhere. How many comics still talk about what people already know, and what no one is afraid of because they figure there will always be guys like George? Well, now there aren’t.

Anytime a club owner, a member of the audience, a parent, an agent, a college agent, a manager, or a TV executive tells you “You can’t say that,” say “Fuck you. I just did. That means you’re wrong.” Then, think of George: hippy in handcuffs being dragged out of a club after knowingly breaking the law by saying what he wanted to say, smiling big, and thinking about how he would work this into the act.

I only met him once. I was with my best friends at the time and we thanked him for paving the way for edgy comics. He looked at us, and referring to the many people that would tell us what we could and could not say, he said: “Eh! Put a finger in their eye!” Perfect.

The good news is this: the comics he did influence will take this art form even further, and find more lines to cross. There may only be a few, but there was only one Carlin and look what that motherfucker did. George Carlin died today. He got high and wrote jokes ’til his last breath. Perfect.

3 Responses

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  1. Anna Matsen said, on June 24, 2008 at 5:10 am

    Carlin was amazing. This is the first celebrity death in a long ass time I’ve actually cared about.

    Not only was he hilarious and provocative, he was also dead on in his commentary on language. For that reason, he’s the only celebrity I ever quoted in a college paper (which was about how “dirty” words do NOT degrade a language … my linguistics professor kicked ass). I know it’s cheesy to claim you’ll “really miss” someone you never actually met, but there’s no better way to say it. I’ll miss him.

    Man, I need to get friends together for a night of Carlin stand up … and Dogma to close out the evening. Dammit all, he had so much more to ridicule!

  2. Anna Matsen said, on June 24, 2008 at 6:20 am

    Oh god, I just started wading through the mass eulogizing and, damn, I’m glad to see him getting the attention he deserves, but holy hell, they keep referencing his “Seven Words” without ever mentioning a SINGLE one of them. Some even describe what “kind” of words they are by category and what impact they currently have on cable TV, without ever naming so much as one! And the quotes they DO provide of his are filled with *truly* offensive “(expletive)”s.

    *gnashes … teeth … in … disgust*

    Good lord, it’s George Carlin that just died. The most fitting eulogy would be one where somebody stands up for his most famous performance and gets *themselves* an obscenity charge.

    Not that I’m surprised. I don’t expect pages of shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, and twat. But the least they could do is close their articles with an acknowledgement of their craven kowtowing:

    “We’re sorry that we cannot respect the artistic integrity of the comedic mastermind whose genius we spent paragraphs praising for being ‘edgy’. We apologize for hypocritically bowdlerizing his fight against censorship. We truly regret being the sanitizers, the censors, the BLEEPs who BLEEPing BLEEP up everything. If only society had changed by now, we could have quoted him in full. Too bad he died before that could happen.”

  3. Hollee said, on June 24, 2008 at 8:43 pm

    I loved this person simply without meeting him, but I knew him personally. I love this person simply based on the chemistry of humor, truthiness and been brazen.
    I loved George Carlin!

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