George Carlin

"Perhaps the worst thing that can happen is to reach into the refrigerator and come out with something that you cannot identify at all. You literally do not know what it is. Could be meat, could be cake."

In the 80's, I used to perform stand-up comedy. I loved stand-up comedians, and would record Carson and Letterman before going to sleep so the next day I could watch their opening monologues and any comedian they would bring on the show. Back then, HBO would air one-hour shows, about once a month, featuring the best in the business. And every year, we'd get a new special from George Carlin.

"Here is a message from the National Institute of Pancakes: It reads, and I quote, “Fuck waffles.”

Carlin was one of my favorite comedians of all time. People who didn't like his humor often were turned off by how much he cursed. He was fearlessly profane. (Many remember his "Seven Dirty Words", but years later he updated the list with about 15 minutes of other things you're not allowed to say on television.)

"Swimming isn't a sport. Swimming is a way to keep from DROWNING."

Carlin was a master of comic timing and delivery. To make his points, he could speak fast and cranky, like a crazy old coot and suddenly raise his voice, as if shouting out a moment of realization. The best example of this may be his legendary bit "A Place For My Stuff" (This is a good time to mention that many great bits from Carlin can be found on Youtube.)

Way before Jim Carrey, Carlin could stretch, twist and pinch his face into all sorts of expressions. He'd come off like a kindly uncle or an intuitive scholar one moment, and instantly transform into an angry New Yorker or a dangerously crazed homeless man. He was loose limbed, energetic and dominated the stage. (One HBO special was done in theatre-in-the-round and he kept the whole room going.)

"About this time, someone is telling you to get on the plane. "Get on the plane. Get on the plane." I say, "fuck you, I'm getting IN the plane! IN the plane! Let Evil Knievel get ON the plane! I'll be in here with you folks in uniform! There seems to be less WIND in here!"

His biggest influence on me (and many other comedians and screenwriters) was his love of language, and the way we've chosen to mangle it. When going through my favorite George Carlin bits in my mind, I think of "A Place for My stuff" and "Baseball vs. Football", but I keep coming back to "The Airline Safety Announcement" from Jammin in New York.

"In the unlikely event..." This is a very suspect phrase, especially coming, as it does, from an industry that is willing to lie about arrival and departure times. "In the unlikely event of a sudden change in cabin pressure..." ROOF FLIES OFF! "An oxygen mask will drop down in front of you. Place the mask over your face and breathe normally." Well, I have no problem with that. I always breathe normally when I'm in a 600 mile-an-hour uncontrolled vertical dive."

"When two planes almost collide, they call it a near miss. It's a near hit. A collision is a near miss."

Carlin could tear apart the English language and look at it from angles I couldn't imagine. Every time I write, I hope for one moment of insight, a new way of looking at the everyday. Carlin wrote new material all the time, producing stand-up albums, DVD's and books. Even when he appeared on the talk shows he'd have all fresh stuff. His mind was always questioning and creating. George Carlin is my hero, and he will be deeply missed.


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