Monday, June 23, 2008

George Carlin, 1937-2008

I can't claim to have been a big fan. I never owned any of his albums or books. He was one of those show-biz figures I liked and enjoyed bumping into, on the Tonight Show or where have you. Truthfully, I'll have a similar feeling of sadness when Cheech and/or Chong passes away, though I recognize that Carlin was a more important figure.

I liked knowing he was around, and I rooted for him in his public struggles with substance abuse. Actually, one of my stronger memories of him, and I don't know if this was a stand-up bit or something I read in an interview with him, is his description of the allure of the rituals of drug use: getting out the paraphernalia, cutting up the cocaine or et. al. I was never a heavy drug user, but that resonated with me, that there were a number of things besides the high that reinforce people's behavior with drugs.

The other thing I remember best about Carlin was his routine comparing baseball and football. As well as being funny, it was precisely on target, and it opened a little window into the American psyche. I'm more of a sports fan than a aficionado of stand-up comedy, but here is where Carlin's wide ranging observations intersected with my parochial interests and rang my bell. I bet a lot of casual comedy fans were similarly touched, maybe shaken up, by George Carlin.

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