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Obituary: George Carlin (1937-2008)

Written by Christopher Beaubien • June 23, 2008 • Start the Discussion!


Comedian. Teacher. Bullshit-detector.

The Irish-American who tried the FCC by delivering the Seven Dirty Words You Can’t Say on Radio or Television on broadcast radio is gone. At 71 years of age, George Carlin, one of the very best and radical stand-ups, died of a heart failure on Sunday the 22nd in Santa Monica, California.

“Seven Dirty Words You Can’t Say on Radio or Television”

Carlin was extremely influential. I am reminded of Lewis Black, one of his descendants who decreed that “there is no such thing as bad language” because we need those words to convey all the shit we go through. Through his comedy, Carlin channeled important issues like women’s rights, race, religion, and sports.

Another of Carlin’s obsessions is how the English Language is used and abused. Here’s a taste:

“The phrase sour grapes does not refer to jealousy or envy. Nor is it related to being a sore loser. It deals with the rationalization of failure to attain a desired end. In the original fable by Aesop, The Fox and the Grapes, when the fox realizes he cannot leap high enough to reach the grapes, he rationalizes that even if he had gotten them, they would probably have been sour anyway. Rationalization, that’s all sour grapes means. It doesn’t mean deal with jealousy or sore losing. Yeah, I know you say, ‘Well many people are using it that way, so the meaning is changing.’ And I say, ‘Well many people are really fuckin’ stupid too, shall we just adopt all their standards?'”

Carlin did a handful of supporting roles in such films as Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1990), and John Lasseter and Joe Ranft’s Cars (2006). He was a favorite of Kevin Smith in Dogma (1999), Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001), and Jersey Girl (2004). For me, I will beam with joy whenever I recall Carlin as Cardinal Ignatius Glick when introducing Catholicism Wow’s Buddy Christ – “He was a booster!”

Here’s a short Bob Kurtz animation Drawing on the Mind narrated by the man of the dour.

Carlin as an artist not only tackled the controversial, but more importantly he did it with grace and gauze-required wit. He was a man after my own heart: “Most people are not particularly good at anything.” Like Oedipus, George Carlin was a really great motherfucker and he will be missed.

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