How I met George Carlin. It was sometime in 2002 or so. My brother got some DVDs and asked me to make a pick so we can watch together. I settled for Dogma. I was drawn by its somewhat quirky title.
The movie starred Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Chris Rock, Salma Hayek and George Carlin. George played the role of a publicity-stunting Cardinal (Glick) who, in one of the church scenes, unveiled a new image of Jesus to a group of reporters. Armed with their cameras and writing pads, the reporters listen to Glick as he takes to the podium to give a speech on his conviction that the soon-to-be retired crucifix was wholly depressing and no longer fit to be the symbol of Christianity. Oh my! The Church, he argued, need to adopt a more soothing and upbeat image. And so, he moved closer to a veiled object by his side and pulls the cover to reveal a smiling Jesus giving the “thumbs up” sign. He asks, “Isn’t this better?”
I quickly hit the pause button and launched into a fit of laughter.
That scene is the only part of George’s role in the movie that has remained unforgettable to me.
Fast-forward to a few years after. I bought an edition of one of Newsweek or Time Magazine and read an interview of George Carlin. His picture on the page was quite familiar but I couldn’t link it to any memory until his role in Dogma was referenced. Until then, I didn’t know him as a popular comedian. The interview made me do a research on him.
Based on my research, I discovered a comical genius whose brand of comedy involves lots of intellectual ponderings, especially political, philosophical, religious and human behavior; a cynic, who is critical of the American life and the way the English language is used; a rebel, who has the least regard for societal norms. In his words, “I think it’s the duty of the comedian to find out where the line is drawn and cross it deliberately.”
I saw some of his materials online and was literally in stitches. His jokes vary from takes on mundane observations to satirical jabs on politics, religions etc. A friend says Carlin is to comedy, what Bernard Shaw is to play writing.
But that was it. I didn’t hear from him again until 2009 when KT whom I once told about Dogma acquired some audio and HBO performances of George Carlin and gave me.
What followed were long days and nights of listening and watching George Carlin. I was experiencing a comedic ecstasy. As soon as I had a free time at work, I call my earphones to duty. St. George Carlin has some words of admonition.
I could care less about the monster called Lagos traffic. Bring on the drag; I’ve got Carlin as my company.
I began to send some of his punch lines as text messages to friends, and so became a self-appointed converter of disciples to the Cult of George Carlin. I asked a friend – also a standup comedian, why we don’t/can’t have Carlin’s type of comedy in Nigeria. He retorted, “You don’t want to hurt people’s brains, do you?” It was a funny, but profound response.
Some months ago, I got two books by Carlin: Brain Droppings & Napalm & Silly Putty. The books quickly shove Jerry Seinfeld away from my bed. Jerry’s tenure as my sleeping partner was over. His book, that is - SeinLanguage.
It’s no surprise that some of my favourite comedians - Jerry Seinfeld, Stephen Colbert, Jay Leno, Chris Rock, Jon Stewart - consider George Carlin as their biggest influence. He is ranked second on the Comedy Central list of 100 greatest stand-up comedians. My ranking will put him on top of the list.
Here are some of the short takes that Carlin is fond of sharing with me in bed. They’re some of my favourites.
Welcome to Carlinism.
“Try explaining Hitler to a kid.”
“I call him Governor Bush because that's the only political office he's ever held legally in this country.”
“Catholics – which I was, until I reached the age of reason.”
“If lawyers are disbarred and clergymen defrocked, doesn’t it follow that electricians can be delighted, musicians denoted?”
“Never forget, Hitler was a catholic”
“There's something I like about the clitoris, but I can't quite put my finger on it.”
“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?”
“Inside every cynical person, there is a disappointed idealist”
“I don't understand why prostitution is illegal. Selling is legal. Fucking is legal. Why isn't selling fucking legal? You know, why should it be illegal to sell something that's perfectly legal to give away? I can't follow the logic on that one at all! Of all the things you can do, giving someone an orgasm is hardly the worst thing in the world. In the army they give you a medal for spraying napalm on people! In civilian life you go to jail for giving someone an orgasm. Am I missing something?”
“One can never know for sure what a deserted area looks like.”
“Some people see things that are and ask, Why? Some people dream of things that never were and ask, Why not? Some people have to go to work and don’t have time for all that.”
“When you’re born you get a ticket to the freak show. When you’re born in America, you get a front row seat.”
“The reason I talk to myself is that I’m the only one whose answers I accept”
“I have as much authority as the Pope; I just don’t have as many people who believe it.”
“I was thinking about how people seem to read the Bible a whole lot more as they grow older; then it dawned on me – they’re cramming for their final exam.”
“In the United States, anybody can be president. That’s the problem.”
“Just when I discovered the meaning of life, it changed.”
“I tried to give up heroin, but all my efforts were all in vein”
“The Jews are smart. They don’t have a hell.”
“An art thief is a man who takes pictures.”
“Do you know why they call it a blow job? So it’ll sound like there’s a work ethic involved. Makes a person feel like they did something useful for the economy.”
“The IQ and the life expectancy of the average American recently passed each other going in opposite directions”
“As far as I’m concerned, humans have not yet come up with a belief that’s worth believing.”
“You can’t argue with a good blow job.”
Carlin died in 2008 at the age of 71. Oh yes, you can accuse me of necrophilia.
His legacy includes winning five Grammy Awards for his albums.
George Carlin on YouTube. There’s a playlist by the right. Be sure to click them for more videos.
PS: Abbie, if you’re reading this post, remember you promised me George Carlin’s autobiography Last Words. In the interest of world safety, fulfill your promise!
I’m going to bed.Tweet