Monday, June 23, 2008

What George Carlin Meant To Me

I did not know the man, I never met him. Yet, I can't help mourn his passing. There is a special place in my heart for comedians who die. George Carlin was, by most measures, a giant in the world of comedy and his loss hurts in proportion to his stature.

I did not learn to speak English until after I was 19 years old, I wasn't even fluent until well into my twenties and some say I still butcher the language. That is where Carlin had the greatest influence on me. I always saw him as a sort of master jazz player who riffed with words and ideas, instead of a horn or keyboard. I give credit to Carlin for my current command of the English language. Without his act, learning to have fun with speech would have been much, much more difficult for me. Through him, I discovered Lenny Bruce, whom George credits with a shift from the vaudeville type work he was doing in the sixties to become the counter-culture genius we know and love today. If you can find smoe of his pre-Lenny Bruce stuff, you can see that sparkle in his eye that there was more to him than the silly antics that could easily air on the Ed Sullivan show. As he grew older, Carlin uncompromisingly began to tell the truth of the world as he saw it and make us laugh while doing so. I admit that I was a bit turned off by his more recent work, I found him to be bitter and angry -- but I am not sure that it was not me projecting that onto him.

George Carlin will live forever in the american collective consciousness. All of the words (not just the seven) in his life are now a part of us.

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