Uncompromising Compromised Carlin

Filed Under Stand-Up Comedy

I don’t have much to say about George Carlin’s new special “It’s Bad For Ya,” because it will be presented live on Saturday Night at 10PM. What I can rave about is this Salon interview with the comic. One of the questions I’ve wanted to ask Carlin about was previous interviewers’ attempts to get him to rebuke the idea of not voting. Carlin in his 1996 special “Back in Town” described voting akin to jerking off except after he jerks off he has “something to show for it.”

Now keep in mind that in the above clip he says, “fuck hope!” In the interview, he, surprisingly, mentions he has some excitement about Barack Obama’s campaign, the interviewer asks right away “are you actually going to vote for him?” Carlin of course says “No”, saying he prefers to stay on the sidelines. Here’s the exchange that follows:

But by sitting on the sidelines, you’re depending on the others to participate, so that you can be a spectator.

Yeah, well, but if it all exploded today or tomorrow I wouldn’t give a fuck.

So you’re really just protecting yourself emotionally from caring about a country and a world that’s falling to pieces.

That’s a great analysis. That’s beautiful. That’s fine. I can’t help it! I’m human.

I’m sure it feels better than giving in to the dread the rest of us feel over the sorry state of things.

It absolutely does feel much better. I see your point, and your point is accurate. I mean, that’s the way I feel.

But I think most people would say that’s an irresponsible stance, too. You’re putting yourself above it and not taking responsibility by saying, “OK, I’m just going to be a spectator to this; my calling is to observe the madness.”

No, I don’t use words like “calling.”

You’re a stickler for words!

I do feel that when you’re born into the world, you’re given a ticket to the freak show, and when you’re born in the United States, you’re given a front-row seat. And some of us have notebooks. Some of us who sit there have a pencil and a notebook, and so that’s what I want to do. Because we’re dealing with an imperfect human animal and an imperfect human system. I’ll never have the ideal form of the thing I’m describing, so there will always be threads hanging out the side of it that a person can unravel and pick at and say, “Yeah, but ...” That’s fine with me, I have to cop to those things. But as close as I can get to having a system where I can operate in this manner, I think I have found a way to do that. But I agree with you, it’s not perfectly ordained. It’s not really ... Uh ...

Rhetorically unimpeachable.

You can criticize it from several angles and good arguments can be made and I respect that. So now I’m the defiant adolescent again. Fuck you people.

What I dig about this is how aware he is of his position. He understands the flaws in it, but it’s who he is. For an uncompromising comic, he understands that as a human being he’s compromised no matter what. One of the reasons why Carlin’s such a good comedian is that he sees through bullshit. What makes him great is that he recognizes his own.

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Posted by Jenny on 03/01  at  12:00 AM

Carlin used to be good, but now he just strikes me as apathetic and sorta lazy.

Posted by bvllets on 03/04  at  03:46 PM

I gotta say when he opened with “Fuck Tiger Woods”, I gave it my 1/4th attention. Tiger Woods is the greatest athlete of the last 50 years. I think he’s just criticizing things without thinking about them now. After all, it is his shtick.

There were a couple of funny parts during it, but as sad as it makes me to say it, game over George, game over.

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