Still Crazy

George Carlin

A comedian often has a tragic tale or two in his past. When life piles on the pathos, you either have to laugh or go mad. Some would say George Carlin has done both.

If tragedy really does beget comedy, then Carlin is a natural. Born in 1937 to a deadbeat dad and a schizophrenic mom, Carlin has managed to survive extreme poverty, a nasty cocaine habit, and the death of his wife just three years ago after 36 years of marriage. Along the way, in addition to offering hilarious diatribes that presaged the "rants" of a certain football broadcaster, he has given us such oddly philosophical statements as "There ought to be at least one round state" and "I almost don't feel the way I do."

Carlin has been in the business for more than 40 years now and has hit several impressive milestones in that span. He has released a dozen albums (two of which won Grammys), created ten HBO specials, and published a book, 1997's Brain Droppings.

So, after saying again and again for four decades that he has nothing but pity and sympathy for a human race he considers doomed, where else would George go for New Year's Eve but Fort Lauderdale? After all, if you've accepted the fact that everyone is pretty much screwed, you might as well pick a relatively warm, sunny spot in which to await the inevitable. Why spend New Year's Eve freezing when you just don't give a damn? And if there's anyone who doesn't care, it's Carlin. The man has made a career of not caring about institutions, society, culture, or anything else that involves groups of people. In his world view, an individual person is potentially not evil, but any group is an automatic target for his vehement wit.

Carlin has angered quite a few groups and even got his name in a Supreme Court case over the bit that made him famous -- the seven words you can't say on TV. The court ruled in a 5-4 decision that the seven words could not be broadcast on TV or radio during hours when children were likely to hear. And while three of the seven (shit, piss, and tits) have since been uttered in prime time, the bit is still as raunchy and funny as ever. But Carlin hasn't been resting on his profane laurels. His list of bad words now has 2443 entries, listed in 48 categories: crab lice, pimp, and flatulence are among the tamer ones. Rather than mellowing with age, Carlin just keeps getting, er, crabbier.

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Dan Sweeney
Contact: Dan Sweeney