Gosh, that foul-mouthed guy’s funny
If (expletive) and (expletive) and five other so-called obscene words had never entered the English language, George Carlin’s career might never have existed.
Carlin revels in the words. He screams them, whistles them, sings them and writes them. He strews them like rose petals in the wake of his appearances. He bounces them off his knee like a soccer ball, and hurls them into the stern and disapproving faces of mothers covering their children’s ears.
It was Carlin, that old rascal, who isolated the “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television,” although many, perhaps most of them, are allowed on cable. They similarly cannot be printed in the L.A. by God Times, where policy limits our obscenities to words like “gosh.”
Part Lenny Bruce, part Howard Stern, part Paul Krassner and part flushing toilet to those offended by his cobalt-tinted monologues, Carlin has been an outsider since he dropped out of high school and discovered marijuana.
That has somehow translated into creating Carlin the satirist-actor-gadfly and general pain in the behind to politicians, deists, do-gooders, do-badders, hypocrites and a lot of others who fail to duck when he passes by.
I have two of his books in my possession, both of them the same. They were given to me during the holidays by those who felt I might appreciate a little dirty comedy relief during a season heavy with holiness.
They were right. I am a Carlin groupie because he is funnier than, well, heck, and because he, like the aforementioned Krassner, has never given up the fight against hypocrisy, even though the years are pursuing them like angry Baptists. My colleague Steve Lopez did a fine job defining the still-edgy radicalism of Krassner, who remains to me the king of counterculture warriors.
But Carlin has a book out called “When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops?” which is hot stuff at the moment, as he is from time to time in just about every medium. He is also in the news for announcing that he is entering drug rehabilitation to eliminate a dependency on wine and Vicodin.
That caught my attention because I like wine and have been forced to use Vicodin on different occasions, and cannot for the life of me understand why anyone would allow himself to be addicted to them. Perhaps he used them together, washing the painkiller down with wine, which is bad news, especially if it was red wine. Vicodin should always be accompanied by a dry white wine, such as a Chardonnay. Hash addicts often prefer a fruitier wine.
Carlin’s brand of humor is probably rooted in the 1950s as satirists like Mort Sahl and Tom Lehrer (and of course old dirty mouth Bruce) were emerging, and then hardened by the multiplicity of social revolutions in the ‘60s that burned like magnesium powder through the fabric of our culture. Given time and all kinds of rage and restrictions, he ultimately cursed his way into the straight world and won Emmys and Grammys and had his star placed on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. Whatever he might have preferred, it contains no expletives.
“Pork Chops,” which was published in the fall, is a collection of comments and observations that warns the readers of its iconoclastic nature in a prologue that wishes all a happy holiday season and then adds, “Of course, I realize this can’t happen for everyone. Some of you are going to die next year, and others will be crippled and maimed in accidents, perhaps even completely paralyzed.... “
That’s one of the few passages that is free of any of the seven deadly words as Carlin muses, attacks, ponders and laughs at Dale Evans, Al Gore, religion, activism, Christmas, love, hate, sports, war, history, fate, life, dogs, funerals, euphemisms, food handlers, retailers, toenail clippings and horses. I think the only subject he avoided was motherhood, but I may have just missed it.
The 67-year-old Bronx-born counterculture hero admitted himself to drug and alcohol rehab a few weeks after a December appearance in Las Vegas during which he reportedly mocked the kinds of people who go to Las Vegas.
You are, he more or less said to the audience who had paid to hear him, moronic.
This, as you might imagine, upset many of the morons, one of whom shouted, “Stop degrading us!”
Carlin is supposed to have once remarked, “I think it’s the duty of the comedian to find where the line is drawn and then cross it deliberately.”
That he has crossed and re-crossed it so many times that it is beginning to blur is glaringly apparent in “Pork Chops.” The funny thing is, he’s funny when he’s just kind of strolling up and down the line and commenting about what’s on the other side without applying any of the Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television.
But the world is becoming more obscene day by day and in some future millennium, those words that Carlin fires into our faces with the evil glee of a demented 12-year-old might become an accepted part of the language. Who the (expletive) knows?
Al Martinez’s column appears Mondays and Fridays. He can be reached at email@example.com.