Saturday, July 19, 2008

Bathroom Monologue: A Courtesy Flush for George

I do not normally editorialize here because it is not an editorial page. However recent events have moved me to speak on the death of George Carlin. I let time pass, respecting the man’s decision. Now, a month removed, I am still overcome by the magnitude of what may be the worst move of his career.

For one, his death exposed flaws in Mr. Carlin’s morality. In one track of his “Back in Town” CD, Mr. Carlin mocked the deaths of Benito Mussolini, John F. Kennedy, and the comedy duo of Abbott and Costello – men of his own trade. In other performances Mr. Carlin mocked death in general, including death by strangulation, gunfire, plane crash, terrorism and war. Dying himself shows Mr. Carlin to be a huge hypocrite.

Mr. Carlin was not afraid of risky career moves. He gambled with his safety in breaking public decency laws in favor of free speech and cuss words. His bold use of caustic language and bawdy character was highly original to audiences that hadn’t seen Lenny Bruce, and made him a star.

In one particular bit, “Seven Words You Can’t Say on Television,” Mr. Carlin recited and examined the seven major bad words. He was arrested. A year later, he was famous. That bit even caused this writer to re-examine why words like “fuck,” which is the beginning of life, should be used to hurt others. So one can appreciate why he might think seemingly insane career moves would be beneficial.

One risky move came late. Originally Mr. Carlin found funny things about unacceptable language, and wove unacceptable language around funny things. This inspired thousands of young stand-up comedians who thought swearing itself was funny and so went on to just say a lot of offensive shit. In the later stages of his career Mr. Carlin saw his relevance waning in comparison to these idiots he'd helped create. Not content merely to inspire, Mr. Carlin became one of them. He was a man of the people.

Being a comedy legend only to have Dane Cook outsell every album you’ve ever pressed would force a lot of people to do drastic things. But is dying worth it? It got him onto CNN and made him the talk of NPR, but in a few years when he doesn’t have any new books or CD’s coming out, what will Mr. Carlin do then? Decompose? That is undignified even for a grown man who once got an entire theatre to attempt armpit farts.

Please, Mr. Carlin: rethink your juvenile decision. We’ll work something out.

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