A Brief Tribute
to George Carlin
Fame and fortune tend to be an illusion. Tends to be, my ass; they are an illusion. Sometimes I think we need to quit equivocating, quit the ambiguity, quit being polite and quit being politically correct. We need to slap our readers or listeners hard across the face or kick them in the stomach. They are in a somnambulistic state, they are snoozing, they are zombies, they are lurching toward the abyss. How else are we to get their attention?
The comedian, George Carlin, used obscene language. But he was seriously criticizing self-destructive human behavior. He got our attention in a very effective way. He was trying to help in the best way that he knew how. He was unconcerned with being polite. For him, it was too late for that.
If you walked into a room to see a person climbing onto a chair to put his head in a noose, would you stop and say to yourself, “Hmmm … now what would be a polite way to say this?”
Two Chinese comedians, Wong and Song probably agreed that Carlin’s approach was effective. “If Wong inspired Song to tell jokes, Carlin made him want to do it for the rest of his life. A lot of comedians’ styles are just ‘joke, joke, joke,’ Song told me. Carlin transcends mere joke telling and taps into larger truths about the human experience. ‘What he does is high art,’ he said. ‘The best comedians, their view of life is deep. I have the skills, but not enough knowledge.’”[i]
Carlin had the knowledge and the skills but more importantly, he had the compassion necessary to be a truth-teller.
[i] Beam, Christopher. “The Rise of Standup Comedy in China.” The New York Times Magazine. May 24, 2015, page 45.
Find a much more in-depth discussion in books by Roy Charles Henry.