George Carlin was always ready to point out the absurdity of everyday life.

 

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GEORGE CARLIN: 1937 — 2008

Our 'sick little voice' goes quiet

By MATT BERRY
STATIC and FEEDBACK staff writer

I was twelve years old when I watched a George Carlin special for the first time, and I remember it quite well. It was You Are All Diseased, and I first saw it in a hotel room in Jacksonville, Florida. Looking back, it might have been on this night that the cynic in me was born. After all, this show ended with a biting take on religion which summarized human belief in an invisible man living in the sky who has a list of ten things he does not want you to do. Growing up in the South, no matter how suburbanized and generic my childhood may have been, ideas such as this had never been displayed so explicitly (and vulgarly, too).

George Carlin died yesterday, and it really shouldn’t have come as a surprise. He had his first heart attack soon after his 40th birthday. He had battled cocaine in the 1970s and wine and pills in this decade. But opening my browser this morning and seeing the news still hit me like a ton of bricks.

There was a time, towards the end of high school, where I essentially studied Carlin’s work. I read his books, I bought his CDs. I stayed up until 3:00 AM to watch his old HBO specials in rerun. I was lucky enough to see him before the end, catching him at Atlanta's Fabulous Fox Theatre in 2004. The performance was anything but his strongest, as he borrowed heavily on his earlier works at points. But like an aging rock band that could retire or kick the bucket at anytime, I felt I had to see him. And besides, he was still more on his game than the Rolling Stones have been for the last decade.

To those of us who took Carlin seriously and saw past the four-letter words, he represented a way of thinking. A way of questioning not only authorities, but why authority exists in the first place. A way of laughing at dirty words not because they are funny, but because of the fact that they are considered dirty in the first place. He personified the sick little voice in all of us that subconsciously found pleasure in tragic events, such as lamenting that a factory blew up in Pakistan instead of down the street because he wanted to go see the bodies with some friends. I don’t find much pleasure in his death, though. The only positive experience comes from reliving his greatest moments and seeing his prolific career get the mainstream coverage it so greatly deserved. Carlin probably would’ve laughed at the coverage of his demise, including this column. And that’s exactly why he was great. With him gone, the world is taking itself a little more seriously today.

E-mail Matt Berry at matt@staticandfeedback.com