Monday, June 23, 2008

The Master of Uncivil Discourse

George Carlin helped to shape at least two if not more generations of our citizens, myself included. The first time I heard his comedy was when I was 6 or 7, watching what I think was a rerun of The Jackie Gleason Show. He was doing Al Sleet, the hippie dippie weatherman. I can vaguely remember the forecast; "dense fog until I get up and get out of my apartment", or something like that.
Later, as a typical 12 year old adolescent male, I was drawn in by my friend down the street's copy of The Seven Words You can Never Say on Television. No, I'm not going to link to it. Find it yourself, it's real easy today. When I was in my 20's, I won tickets to a Carlin concert by calling into a radio contest and knowing the nickname of the neighborhood he grew up in. I took my brother, and we did laugh an awful lot.

In later life, Carlin started to become more aggressive in the social commentary aspects of his work. I was not a devotee, probably because I was turned off by the abrasive and profane aspects of his presentation.

As much as I believe in the ability to discuss our society in an honest and civil manner in the majority of circumstances, I probably did myself a disservice by not paying more attention to him. I did like the fact that Carlin appeared to be drawn to a kindred spirit in the form of filmmaker Kevin Smith, contributing nicely to his comedies Dogma and Jersey Girl.

More recently, Carlin had become more astute than he already was in assessing and expressing the frustration that many of us have for the situations we find ourselves in. To his credit, he toned down some of the abrasive language, but lost none of the passion and intelligence that was always present.

If there is any earthly good to come from his passing, it will be that his message will proliferate into cyberspace ad infinitum. Civil or not, agree with him or not, there is something there that is worth listening to and thinking about.

Rather than cite an example of Carlin in performance, Keith Olbermann, now a nearly equally controversial (and spot on) figure himself and the subject of analysis related to his civility in this week's New Yorker, devoted the last segment of his show tonight as a tribute to George Carlin by re-broadcasting an interview from last Autumn. I especially liked Olbermann's sign-off at the end, truly a classy touch.

Enjoy, and have a good night.

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