Monday, June 23, 2008
George Carlin was the Devil's George Burns- old, ironic, wink-eyed, intelligent, forever on stage and massively disillusioned, eagle eying the hypocrites, liars and goddamn idiots that make up the human race- as he might have said.
E and I went and saw Carlin at the Pala Casino a few years ago. We stayed overnight at the hotel and left the Kid Rocks with Grandma. I bought the tickets for us as a Valentine gift to E. After drinking and gambling, we sat in a crowded room and watched and listened to Carlin master the boozy audience. He was caustic, determinedly iconoclastic- a thinking man's humorist, a black humorist, but whatever he was or said, always funny, always winking into the eye of fate with a big Fuck You.
His tone at the Casino reminded me of Vonnegut's tone in his book ' Man Without a Country '- at the end of his life and terrificly tilted toward despair over the condition of human kind, but with enough grit and humor to keep him from keeling off completely. Carlin, unlike Vonnegut, did not have a large family, but he was married and had a daughter- family to keep his heart fresh. In fact, his heart was not fresh- he has died at 71 of heart failure. The metaphor would delight his black sense of humor, were he around to rub his bristly beard and laugh his raspy laugh.
--In one of his most famous routines, Carlin railed against euphemisms he said have become so widespread that no one can simply "die."
"'Older' sounds a little better than 'old,' doesn't it?," he said. "Sounds like it might even last a little longer. ... I'm getting old. And it's OK. Because thanks to our fear of death in this country I won't have to die — I'll 'pass away.' Or I'll 'expire,' like a magazine subscription. If it happens in the hospital they'll call it a 'terminal episode.' The insurance company will refer to it as 'negative patient care outcome.' And if it's the result of malpractice they'll say it was a 'therapeutic misadventure.'" --
At the Casino, Carlin admitted he was feeling care-worn. He had been doing material about the destruction of Earth for a few years now, he said, and had lost the will to continue, so- he said - we were to hear brand new and uncultivated material. Sorry about your luck, he said, I have no idea how this will go.
We don't have any idea how things will go, and we continue on. Goodbye Mr. Carlin, and thanks a million for the laughs.
I wrote this for my grandfather MD Gardner, as he lay dying two years ago.