Monday, June 23, 2008

George Carlin: Creative Genius

I have a number of heroes in my lifetime who affected my personal development in positive ways and I'd like to share them with you now.


I know, cliche and boring but entirely true. It was my Mother who kept telling the doctor that something wasn't quite right with her son even though the tests showed nothing. It was my Father who continued to work tirelessly while my Mom continued to shuttle me back and forth to UCSF for treatment. They never gave up, never faltered, never complained.

My first exposure to something pure and untainted: unconditional love. I am fearful of the day they will no longer be gracing this Earth with their devotion and loyalty. I'm tearing up thinking about it so let's move on.


With most children it starts with Sesame Street. These creatures given life by the hand of creative brilliance. Henson presented the gift of unlimited imagination. Anything was possible and the mind had no boundaries.

Along with my Mom, whether he intended it or not, he shaped the goofy side of my personality that I cherish so much. Go back and watch "Fraggle Rock" or "The Muppet Movie". There's a river of unbridled silliness flowing below every Muppet creation and to this day I am astonished how good his material is.


Along with Jim Henson, this one hit me pretty hard.

At first, I felt sort of ridiculous. I never knew the man but from the time I could appreciate comedy, I was an unwavering fan. There are so many ways to appreciate what he offered my life and I will do my best to note those now.

As a young tween I originally discovered George Carlin by his cleaned up appearances on "The Merv Griffin Show" and my earliest memory of his material was his bit simply called "A Place for My Stuff." Cleaned up for the TV audience, it is a brilliant piece of writing (you will discover me using that word to describe him over and over...simply allow it to pass like bad gas.)

As I entered my teenage years I was fascinating with voices and the way that could be formed, created and delivered. If you go back and listen to some of his early material, George never did impressions. He created characters and used his voice to give life to all the different people he was bringing to life.

Filtering through my twenties and thirties he became a social commentator of the highest caliber while never forgetting to make us laugh. This is the third level in my lifetime that I've been blessed to enjoy him on an entirely different level.

In 1996 in the year after my second transplant I had a chance to sit in the fifth row in El Paso, Texas with the overnight guy from our radio station and enjoy Carlin's venomous tirades just fifteen feet away. As we drove into the desert night following the show, I entertained all the passengers for the forty five minute ride home still riding high on the inspiration of Mr. George Carlin.

The part of the story I'm about to reach now you will not believe, but I swear on the lives of everyone I hold dear that it's absolutely 100% true.

For whatever reason on Saturday I grabbed my "Classic Gold" collection. It contains the albums "FM & AM" (FM side for the new true-to-himself George, the AM side for some of his old material from his teaming with Jack Burns), "Occupation: Foole" and "Class Clown." This album takes me back to my teenage years when I voraciously collected comedy albums like others collect stamps or Strawberry Shortcake memorabilia. I always kept them hidden from my parents because I didn't think they'd appreciate all the vivid cursing.

Keep in mind my father was one of the original cursing chefs of the 20th Century.

I listened to them in my truck as I ran errands. I placed them in my work computer CD player to enjoy while mindlessly going through music logs.

I discovered today that he was pronounced dead at 5:55pm PST. At that moment I was watching a YouTube video of George on the "Actor's Studio."

All of the above is absolutely, unequivocally balls to the wall true. It's as though my subconscious knew by some psychic force that it was time to catch up with an old friend I've never truly met.

Great writing is key.

Being honest with yourself even more so.

Questioning everything while at the same time realizing that everybody is full of shit is a great slice of wisdom pie.

Thank you George for offering up your talent to the world. There's a massively gaping hole in the fabric of the creative universe due to your absence.

The following is from his final HBO show recorded live in my adopted hometown of Santa Rosa, CA. from the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts. It seems a fitting end to this post.