From the New York Times: “George Carlin, Irreverent Comedian, Dies at 71.”
What an absolute shame! George Carlin was all set to receive the Eleventh Annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor this year at the Kennedy Center, and now he dies of heart failure. It is such a tragedy. But you know what, even if he’s not there to receive it in person, he surely deserves that award, not only for his contribution to comedy, but for his contribution to words and free speech.
Besides being a tremendously funny guy, George Carlin, is first and foremost, a lover of words. And as someone who grew up loving words, I am deeply saddened by his passing. In his monumental routine titled “Seven Dirty Words” (original script here), the very first thing he says is:
“I love words. I thank you for hearing my words. I want to tell you something about words that I uh, I think is important. I love..as I say, they’re my work, they’re my play, they’re my passion. Words are all we have really.”
To me, that is not only the essence of comedy, but the essence of all human thought. George Carlin not only employed words to make us laugh, he also used them to make us think about the absurdities of convention, political correctness, and most importantly, censorship.
George Carlin was a true comedic genius, because like every comedic genius, he was a first-rate satirist, provocateur, and polemicist. He made us realize just how retarded some of our limits on free speech are, and he poked fun at them through absurdity. And I will contend that we need people like George Carlin more than ever, because in a world where torture is called “enhanced interrogation techniques,” when civilian casualities are called “collateral damage,” when illegal kidnapping is called “rendition,” we need people like George Carlin who are unafraid to pierce through the veil of bullshit and tell it exactly like it is.
America has just lost another incisive social commentator, one of those people whose job, like Jonathan Swift, is to keep us on our toes, point out our hypocrisies, and all the while make us laugh until our stomachs hurt and we are rolling on the floor.
In the court of the King, only the Jester can speak truth to power, and with George Carlin’s passing, we just lost another Jester. But I’m consoled by the thought that right now, somewhere in heaven, George Carlin is probably chillin’ with Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor, and they are probably busting God’s balls and having a good time.