by Charles Marowitz
(Swans - June 30, 2008) If it should turn out that George Carlin, who presumably died of heart failure on June 22nd, was in fact done in by operatives of the CIA, I would not be surprised. Carlin was a menace to the American way of life as it has been sold to us through government, media, education, and religion. Spawned by the venal spirit of Lenny Bruce and nurtured by a sense of insurrection more often found in political zealots than in stand-up comics, he spent more than forty years disassembling the "American way of life," pointing out its follies and fallacies. He reminded us how precious language was and how, when fine-tuned, it could demolish hypocrisy and, through laughter, bring satori. Lots of comedians are talented but very few are possessed. Carlin sheltered within himself a demon that regularly appeared during the stand-up. It demonized him privately as much as it hypnotized us collectively.
If we want to expose and indict the evils that regularly diminish the quality of our lives, we must turn to the vitriolic jesters. It is only from them that we can rekindle truths that, through repetition, have congealed into falsehoods. Carlin was the closest we ever came to a comic guru; a man who drew his inspiration from realms beyond the mundane. He taught us a kind of philosophic etiquette; a way of blasting the mendacities that social intercourse regularly filters into our consciousness. A teacher, a prophet, a rollicking naysayer, Carlin recognized that the most deadly weapon of mass destruction was the comic insight, and he detonated it every time he stepped onto a stage.
Other comics may come who deal with the fundamental issues as searingly as he did, but I wouldn't bank on it. Performers like that come along once in a generation, if you're lucky. We were blessed by being exposed to the Carlinian spirit for as long as we were. The best way to honor him is to keep in the forefront of our minds the brazen truths he turned into revelatory comedy.
The next time a politician stands up and showers us with bogus clichés, let's be sure we have a custard pie handy to throw in his face. When some corporate stooge proceeds to pelt us with earnest horseshit, let us have a taser handy ready to stop him in his tracks. When a pious minister steps into a pulpit to promise salvation or guarantee eternity, let's push our mental ejector-button and send him crashing through his fancy stained-glass windows. And after we have committed all these salutary acts of rebellion, let's leave behind a nasty, graffiti scrawl that reads: "Carlin lives!"
[ed. In February 2005, Charles Marowitz wrote "George Carlin: Apocalyptic Comedy," a review of Carlin's 2004 book When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops?.]
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