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June 26, 2008

In Honor of George Carlin

In Honor of George Carlin

By Kathy Sweeney fka Rebecca the Bookseller

I got my first record player for Christmas, 1972.  It was bright yellow, to match my room, and it had flashy multi-colored lights on the bottom, so when I played it in the dark, my room looked very cool.  I also got the soundtrack to Fiddler on the Roof and a big plastic candy cane full of Hersheyettes. which are like M&Ms only by Hershey.  I'm sure I got other cool stuff too, but those three come as a package memory.  You know how those are, right?  You remember one, you remember them all.

For my 13th Birthday the following September, my Irish Grandma asked what I wanted.  I'd seen Laugh-In, loved the Hippy Dippy Weather Man, had memorized the schtick, and was ready for more material.  So I asked for a George Carlin album.  Grandma had never heard of George Carlin, which is the only way I got it.

Once I got the album, and having exercised the sound judment of playing it very quietly the first time through, I knew I'd struck gold.  The album was "Class Clown" and I still laugh at most of the bits today.  There is one track where he suggests possible names for birth control pills if they ever go over-the-counter.  Names like Preg-NOT, Embry-no and Womb Broom.  And of course, this is the album with The Seven Words. Outgrageous, hilarious and very clever all at the same time.  That was Carlin.

All was well for months, until one day my Mom was cleaning my room and decided to play one of my records.  Oops.  Legend has it that they heard her screaming across town, which alerted my Dad, who came home (with all those kids, I'm guessing he popped home during the day a lot, but what do I know) and listened to it too.  They were shocked.  Appalled.  I got a big lecture, the end of which was my mother observing: "It's a good thing you don't even understand what most of this even means."  Then I got an eye-roll from my Dad, who knew my vocablulary already included words that would cause my mother to stroke out. The record vanished.

You know the next part, right?  I came home from a date that winter to find our living room full of my parents' friends, half in the bag and howling while trying to listen to George Carlin between bursts of laughter.  They kept having to reset the needle to replay the stuff they were missing.  Busted.  I said nothing, of course, because I hadn't been exactly walking the straight and narrow that evening either.

The thing about George Carlin, and one reason I'm blogging about him here, is that the key to his humor was great writing.  With many comedians (Lewis Black, Robin Williams, Billy Crystal, Chris Rock) you need to see them perform to really get the jokes.  The visual is part of the act.  With Carlin - his voice helps, and he is capable of doing great physical comedy, but the real humor is in the words.  His books can make you laugh just as hard as his shows.  And few comedians transfer as well to audio-only as Carlin.

Some of his routines are classics: the Seven Words You Can't Say on Television (I think there are only two of those left that you can't say on network TV, and half an episode of most HBO series decimate all seven and beyond); the Hair Poem; and the rant on "Stuff".  But there are other gems out there too.  Class Clown is still my favorite - maybe it's because you never forget your first, or maybe it's because I grew up Catholic, and the bit on the Heavy Mysteries is a riot.

His career spanned 40 years - he was performing before I was born.  As he got older, he got a little more bitter, and although his writing was still brilliant, I still  like the older stuff.

So in honor of a great writer, please tell the rest of us about your favorite comedian and his or her material.

We've been talking all week about what a loss this is - and accepting the fact that we have no replacement coming up.  So if you know of any promising young comics let me know - I need a new album.

As you read this, we are probably driving home from the beach, so no worries and no offense if I don't comment much.  I look forward to reading about everyone's favorite comedy bits when I return.


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Being an Olde Farte, I can remember seeing George back in the mid 60's on the Tonight show, causing Johnny Carson to bust up laughing. He still had short hair and wore a suit then.

Over the years, I got all of his albums (I was a senior in high school when "Class Clown" came out) and tried to catch him every time he was on TV. I saw him live three times, including once in the late 70's when he was obviously coked up, but still screamingly funny. Of course, much of the audience was coked up, too. Except for those of us who had been smoking hash.

I doubt that George will have a real successor, but, like Richard Pryor, his influence can be seen in just about every good comic working today.

We had a couple of Bill Cosby albums - "Revenge" was one, I can't remember the second. Anyway, we would play them over and over again, laughing just as hard the upteenth time as the first. He was clean, so we didn't have to practice "sound judgement" Like Carlin, there is no need for visual - Cosby is a great storyteller - all you need is your imagination. I still love his classic "Buck Buck" with Fat Albert.

Ohmygosh, do you remember Sister Mary Discipline and her steel ruler? For the rest of the year, I couldn't look Sister Pius in the face without my lips twitching.

God rest the man's soul. Bet they are laughing in...well, wherever he went!

Um, Tom Lehrer? Bought "This is the year that was" when I was 14, I think, and know almost all of the words by heart. New Math? I can do it, halfway through base 8. He quit the biz the day that Kissinger was awarded the Nobel. He said that "Irony was dead."

I think I'll listen to him, though not that record, which hasn't been "digitized" yet, on the way to work. iPod, and all. Hey, maybe I'll do that one this weekend.

Bill Cosby, Nichols and May, Stan Freiberg, Bob Newhart and Allan Sherman were all comedians I grew up with; my mother had an extensive collection of comedy albums and for some odd reason, felt it appropriate to allow her children to listen to all of them, endlessly. Later on, I graduated to Cheech and Chong, Steve Martin and, of course, George Carlin. In fact, Kathy and I are pretty certain that we were both at the same 1979 (1978?) Carlin concert in Pittsburgh at the old Stanley Theater.I don't remember all his bits, but I do remember laughing in a way that had nothing to do with the contact high.

Bill Cosby, if for nothing else the word 'Wonderfulness'

Jonathan Winters, for taking the mundane and making it hysterically funny

Robin Williams, for showing smart and funny DO go together

One of George Carlin's minor gigs was as narrator of some of the Thomas the Tank Engine videos for small children. He really captured the grit and reality that make the original stories so great.

The beloved George Carlin will now get to test his theory of Frisbeetarianism--the philosophy that when you die, your soul goes up on a roof and gets stuck.

Per George:
"I don't believe in rencarnation. I am a strong Frisbeetarianist."

You're inspiring me -- I don't think I've ever bought a comedy album in my whole life, but maybe I will now.

I was a teenager in the 70s. I really liked Steve Martin. Did any of you Pittsburghers go see him at the Civic Arena (I refuse to call it Mellon Arena!) in the late 70s?

Although most weren't stand-up comedians, the cast members in the early years of Saturday Night Live were great, too.

Yes, I was sad to hear as well. I LOVE Carlin's STUFF routine. It was hilarious then, but now that we all have even more stuff, they should rerun it on TV all the time. Kathy, I thought it was just my imagination that his routine's got more bitter later on, but I guess it wasn't.

I had a Cosby album growing up that was so funny - I don't remember the title but I remember the soap box bit being great.

I have to say that my favorite George Carlin piece was "Stuff"...it was true of my life the first time I heard it and it's true today, which of course is why it's so funny :o) I will miss him. We're out of the Carlin books at the store. Everyone who buys one has a favorite clip or paragraph.
One of my first comedy albums was Bill Cosby's Why Is There Air? I think I got it in high school. Drove my sister crazy with it, but it made both of us lifelong fans. I was lucky enough to see him here at Assembly Hall. Just him, a bare stage, and a chair. I laughed so hard, I had tears rolling down my cheeks...for 90 minutes.
Of course Harvey Korman and Tim Conway do that to me as well whenever I can catch a Carol Burnett re-run.
And Kathy, you know I don't think there are many (if any) replacements these days. I'm as curious as you, cuz we all need to laugh.

Oh and does anyone else remember Vaughn Meader?

I loved Carlin's "Stuff" routine, and Cosby's "Dad is Great - He gives us Chocolate Cake" and the baby poo bits. Both of them translated to audio well because they did so much with their voices when doing a routine.

Other comedians I love: Red Skelton, Bob Newhart,

Saturday Night Live was it for me, too. I don't remember seeing or listening to a lot of stand-up comedy as a kid, but I watched that show religiously. From Radner and Belushi and Ackroyd all the way through Adam Sandler and Will Ferrell up till Tina Fey and Amy Poehler -- those were some gifted comedians.

Chris Rock is a genius of a different order. I have XM-Radio and recently I listened to a long blistering routine about race and racism. It burned my ears, but I was laughing the whole way.

RIP George Carlin.

Oops, I hit "post" too soon - I meant to add Robin Williams and Ellen Degeneres to my list :)

I forgot about Jonathan Winters. Another great I watched all the time as a kid. And the Bill Cosby "Chocolate Cake" is a classic -- even my kids know it because I quote it so often. I also loved the "let the beatings begin" line on the same Cosby album.

If you want a new, hot, young comic, Dane Cook is hilarious! I can listen to him and watch him, either works.

He's wonderful.

He has this bit about the 'nothing fight' couples have, the fight that escalates to a screaming match, but is about strawberry jam. Makes me cry everytime I hear it b/c I laugh so hard.

Here's his website, there are clips on here so you can get a taste of him.


Here's his website.

I think my brother's and I wore the grooves off the album of Bill Cosby's 'Right' when we were kids. My favorites: Noah and Little Tiny Hairs. My favorite "Cosby" episode: Dreaming he was pregnant and giving birth to a sailboat.

Loved George Carlin even though we were never allowed to have his albums in the house. Jonathan Winters always cracks me up along with Robin Williams.

Oh, yeah - Stan Frieberg (sp?), the Monty Python Gang (anyone else remember the 3-sided record), Bob Newhart (his one-sided phone dialogs -- like the one with Sir Walter Raleigh on tobacco -- are screamingly funny), Bill Cosby ("I brought you into this world and I can take you out!"), and, a favorite in my family, The Smothers Brothers. Tom Lehrer's "Vatican Rag" still doe sit for me.

So who's hot with the monologs these days?

Wow, what memories this all brings back!

My mother loved comedy so I was exposed to a lot of it, including Carlin, on TV and on records at an early age without much censorship. "Stuff" is my favorite, along with "Seven Words." We had several Cosby albums and "Noah" is one of my all-time favs of his ("How long can you tread water?")

Phyllis Diller was a huge hit in our house and we never missed her on TV. I also remember seeing Woody Allen on Johnny Carson. Today I love Lewis Black, Wanda Sykes, Steve Harvey and Chris Rock, with a bit of Bill Maher thrown in.

Years ago, I did stand-up for awhile. It's a very tough business and made me appreciate all the hard work that goes into making bits look effortless.

Cosby-Chicken Heart brings tears to my eyes everytime, also Noah!

Allan Sherman:
"Hello Muddah
Hello Fadduh
Here I am at
Camp Granada
Camp is very
And they say we'll have some fun if it stops raining."

Carlin: The Indian Sergeant "You wit' the beads... get outta line"

Robin Williams: Live on Broadway, the last 20 minutes or so almost caused my husband to have a stroke and pass out. I can't explain it any better...just rent it.

Roseanne: you either lover her or hate her, but her standup at the beginning was groundbreaking.
"I don't like the terms housewife and homemaker. I prefer to be called Domestic Goddess… it's more descriptive.
I will clean the house when Sears comes out with a ride-on vacuum cleaner."

As far as new comedians, I just don't see anyone that I like. Jeff Dunham & Peanut will have me on the floor. But I have officially turned into an Olde Farte. I don't find humor in most of the stuff out there...I just don't "get" it.

And it absolutely comes down to the writing.

My daughter (19) absolutely loves Dane Cook and Jeff Dunham. I really need to check them out.

Also, if you've ever seen the episode of "Inside The Actors Studio" with Robin Williams, he takes a scarf from someone in the audience and does about a 10-minute bit with it. It's hilarious, and brilliant. In one part, he uses the fringe on the scarf to portray going through a car wash.

I have the Monty Python three-sided album. Matching Tie and Handkerchief. Have a couple others, too. Don't remember how I got them.

I forgot to mention The Firesign Theater. My children and I can pretty-much recite side two of "How Can You Be In Two Places At Once When You're Not Anywhere At All" (The Adventures of Nick Danger, Third Eye (The episode we call, cut him off at the Past!)). Drives my wife crazy in the car.

I love all these guys. Anybody remember Bob and Ray? I thought I was watching my mother's demise once when she lost it listening to them.

And I nearly got arrested at the Canadian border once. Driving my girls to a vacation, we listened to Garrison Keillor on the way, and his "Tomato Butt" routine came on while we were in line on the Peace Bridge. There was no peace in that car by the time we reached the gate and the border patrol tried to interview me.

When I was very very young, I loved the Smothers Brothers. For some reason, I thought their song "I fell into a vat of chocolate" was a real knee-slapper. Go figure.

Totally politically incorrect, but I love Jeff Dunham's Achmed, the Dead Terrorist.

My memory of George Carlin, Class Clown was listening to it with my very first boyfriend (I was thirteen).

What a great blog today! Does anyone else but me bemoan the loss of the variety show format on TV? The closest we come these days is "America's Top Talent", which is a great show, and "The Last Comic Standing", which my husband and I love to watch. But I stopped being a fan of most comedians when they seemed to begin to believe that using the "f" word made them amusing. It generally doesn't. Now, if my mother used it, that would be funny, or shocking.

My favorite comedians tend to be comediennes. I heart Ellen, Whoopi, Tina Fey, Roseanne (and who can forget her riff on men thinking that women can find things better because the uterus is a tracking device?), and others. Erma Bombeck, Phyllis Diller, and Joan Kerr's books (Please Don't Eat the Daisies was her most famous), all come to mind. For some reason I tend to appreciate their humor more than men's. Maybe because they don't diss women in their humor. Nah, that couldn't be it. ;-)

Oh, yes, I agree completely about the writing. Smart is smart, and it makes it funnier, to me. Robin Williams is one you have to pay attention to, because he throws in so many off-the-wall references. One of the funniest things ever was his last Johnny Carson appearance. Oh, my.

Anybody like Rita Rudner as much as I? She cracks me up.

Fave vintage comeday recordings:

George Carlin, of course!
David Steinberg--especially his Biblical stuff
Bob Newhart
Bill Cosby
Flip Wilson
Monty Python
Peter Cook and Dudley Moore

I dated a dude who did stand-up as well as being part of a comedy duo, so I got a good education. Then I married a Monty Python fan.

Yes, Joyce!!!!! I love Achmed!


I remember always staying up to watch Carson when Phyllis Diller was on. Also the one female comic Roseanne said inspired her most, Totie Fields. She had a low raspy voice. She was sooooo short & chunky, but always wore heels & fancy sparkly dresses when she would appear. And funny!

I do like the Blue Collar Comedy Tour, mainly Bill Envald and Ron White (they call me Tater Salad). Larry, the Cable Guy...not so much.

I think Carlin started his bitter leanings when his first wife died in 1997. Even though he did remarry, he was a more bitter man. He had a decidedly depressing outlook on almost everything, still funny, but very dark.

Carlin at his earliest best....


"Why did you yell 'fire' when you fell into a vat of chocolate?"

This one is also on my iPod.

Here is an early Totie Fields on Ed Sullivan: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ixkqVgfAoU0feature=related

I have loved Don Rickles since the first time I saw him on Carson. My junior year in high school i went on the Jr/Sr class trip to NYC and Washington DC. My girlfriend and I had sent away for tickets to the Tonight Show (it was the year before they moved to CA). The two of us & two of our teacher/chaparones went with us. And who was the guest? Don Rickles. The commercial breaks were better than the show itself...and the show was pretty damn funny.

I do miss Johnny!

For funniest ad-lib it had to be Hollywood Squares. Everything clean but so suggestive!
Laugh-in had the best one liners and visuals
(babies crawling all over and Whistler's Mother in a rocking chair singing "I've Got Rythym " The new hubbies didn't get it but all the young brides were ROFL)
Johnny Carson introduced some great comedy. Jonathan Winters could become a dirty old man with just his eyes and grin
Carol Burnett - can crack me up with a look.
I like Foxworthy and the Blue Collar crew.
The only album I remember being 'snuck' into the house was my older brother had Rusty Warren's Knocker's Up! and I don't remember any of it.

I used to play "Tomato Butt" for students the first week of school, such a good introduction to irony, and an indication that, while we would work, we would also have fun. I also told them that was the only time the word "butt" would be heard in my classroom -- we worked on more proper alternatives to vulgar words; it was English class after all.
I sometimes refered to Cosby's shop class story, "I didn't put the bullet in the furnace, and stop talking about my mother!"
I had many Cosby and Carlin records, but after I put out four HEAVY boxes of records for Freecycle "takers," I went through the rest with a former student who had also answered the Freecycle offer. It was amazingly easy to give up stuff when it was going to someone I knew and liked. "Yes, take the George Carlin. You'll like it. He died yesterday, you know." "Take my Vietnam protest records; I've heard them, I was there." It was almost like passing things down to a son, since I don't have one. Now there are only two boxes left . . .progress. (and Freecycle is amazing. I offered a jar of matches -- three takers within an hour. The old computer went quickly, too. "One man's trash. . ."

I CANNOT believe someone (Rita) knows who Rusty Warren was!! I remember my parents and aunt and uncle sitting around laughing at that.

You have all brought up some wonderful, funny people. I just "discovered" Jeff Dunham recently and OGM, I adore Achmed!

I miss the Carol Burnett show. It's still funny. Stands the test of time, doesn't it?

And finally, George - RIP. You will be missed.

Someone was finally able to make Rickles speechless....Carson.


Many of my favorites are on the list already. (I especially like the Bill Cosby albumn with the Dad is Great routine.)

I always laugh at Jeff Foxworthy's stuff. Doesn't translate well for everyone, but I'm from Oklahoma, and I KNOW many of the "people" he talks about in his routines.

I also like Tyler Perry and his Madea character.

I also remember always liked Flip Wilson's bits as Geraldine.

I have an entire shelf in my living room filled with Books by stand-up comics. The biographies are my favorites, but the humor books are there also.

Oh, and Tom Lehrer!! I used to play the "Oedipus Rag" when we studied Greek tragedy, and I gave a copy of the elements song to friends in the science department. A friend did the musical of his works at her church. The priest was pretty cool about it, but did ask that they eliminate "chew the wafer," so they made it "take the wafer." It seemed a small concession to their host (Host ;-)

We didn't have cable until 1973 . . . only CBC (Canada), political comedy doesn't do much for 13 year olds.

I remember finding Saturday Night Live from the first show while babysitting as a teenager. Wild and Crazy guys.

My first comedy album was Cheech and Chong. Basketball Jones, Sgt Stedenko. Loved George Carlin, does the light stay on when you close the refrigerator door? Lucky for me, my parents didn't censor the humour we got to see or hear. I can remember the whole family getting together to laugh at the Carol Burnett Show.

Those were the days. Even the Sonny & Cher show had some funnier material than the comedy these days.

Lots of people have covered my past favorites, but I can't believe no one has mentioned my current comedy love - Eddie Izzard. I'm late to know about him - he started making it big in the 90's. Hilarious!

Here's one of many youtube links

Dearly departed hubby was a big Cheech & Chong fan and the landlord did a double take when he saw all their movies on the entertainment center LOL!
SNL used to be hilarious. Now they take a 5 line joke and try to stretch it into 5 minutes. Definitely drags and loses the humor.
The Blues Brothers still cracks me up.
"How much for the little girl? How much for your women?" (I tried to get their license plate for my Bluesmobile, but it was taken!)


"Who is it?"

"Special Delivery"

"I can't understand what you said."


"Who are y...arggghhhh!!!!"

Nothing beats it!

We loved Cosby tapes growing up - maybe it's just that I have small kids now, but my most remembered/ fave bit was the kids who got yelled at by dad so much they thought their names were Dam*it and Jesus Christ (he yells at one of them to "Come in, dam*it!" And the boy responds "but Dad, I'm Jesus Christ!" etc).

Hey - does Wierd Al Yankovic back in the early 80's count as a comedian? Stupid (in a good way) and kid friendly comedy.

Nah, it' probably just me...

I love George Carlin's bit about behind the scenes with the Indians getting ready for the fight with the Calvary. The limping Indian (i think Limping Ox) and his corrective moccasins. The reminder to the warriors that this is not a practice fight..."and remember...THERE WILL BE SOLDIERS IN THE FORT!"

I also loved his routine about what people do when they trip on the sidewalk. He took little things and made them so funny.

My mom and dad would listen to Andy Griffith comedy albums. His most well-known skit is "What It Was Was Football" about how a country boy who's never heard of football interprets the game he's attending. My sisters and I always thought that skit was hysterical.

Also Bob Newhart...especially whenever he did a phone call routine.

I always laugh whenever I see a Kathy Griffin special. IMHO, her story about Little Richard sincerely arguing with Triumph the Insult Comic Dog on Hollywood Squares is the funniest of all her routines. Whenever I see it, I laugh so hard tears roll down my face.

And I can't forget Paula Poundstone, Blue Collar Comedy Tour, Carlos Mencia, Reno 911, Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin on 30 Rock, always SNL, and loads others I DO forget right now.

I yelled "fire" when I fell into the chocolate! Is how the Smothers Brother song goes.
Then next line is "Why'd you yell fire when you fell into the chocolate?"
"Because no one would come save me if I yelled "Chocolate!"

My current favorite, though, is Eddie Izzard. Has anyone seen "Dressed to Kill"?
I literally, went through several Kleenexes, I was laughing so hard tears were streaming down my face. (Cake? Or Death?)

My storytelling friends and I do a bit based on the Smothers brothers' "Streets of Loredo." "I see by your t-shirt that you are a storyteller. . ."
I loved Cosby's bit on if history were run like football, with a coin toss at the beginning. . .Custer lost the coin toss . .
Bless those who help us laugh . . .

I feel very young reading some of these and going "Huh? Who's that?"
BUT, I remember seeing Bill Cosby WITH MY PARENTS when I was a teenager in concert, loved it. I still own his "Bill Cosby: Himself". I like Jeff Dunham, Robin Williams (His Live on Broadway is hilarious!), Dane Cook, Dennis Leary (cusses a bit much for me, but funny), Jeff Foxworthy and Bill Engvall.

I also love Rita Rudner!

And I love Robert Klein, though I haven't seen him on tv for a long time: http://www.robertklein.com/kleinbio.html

Another current comedian whose stand-up I like is Kevin James.

I was saddened to hear about the passing of George Carlin. He came to our theatre locally last September and my husband and I went to see him. I'm glad we did.
My all-time favorite was Bill Cosby's schtick on tonsillectomies. I remember as a young child when I had to have my tonsils removed and my grandmother, who was a nurse, promised me ice cream, all I wanted, post op. Cosby has a similiar bit in his routine about, "Ice cream! I'm gonna eat ice cream! And I'll eat it every day, in the middle of the night." And something about sticking a marachino cherry in his belly button and being the best ice cream sundae you've ever seen! This made me giggle uncontrollably as a child and I still will yell out, "Ice cream, I'm gonna eat ice cream..." every time I get a sore throat.

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