George Carlin


Carlin isn’t like Lenny Bruce because he’s profane. He’s like Bruce because he is fascinated with words and enraged at the way they are used to keep people down. There’s a group of people that wish that George was satisfied with just being clever. His examination of the slang in baseball and football is funny and very clever. Why can’t George just stick with the clever jokes? Why has he become so bitter? Frankly, the more bitter he gets the more he inspires me. It takes guts to go on television and tell people that Christianity, Judaism, Islam, or whatever your cult of preference is makes as much sense as worshiping trees. Excising the religious from your demographic isn’t how Jerry Seinfeld got his 704th Porsche. Fuck the bemused comics and bring on the guys who are angry.

So Baseball versus Football, fun and amusing, but his analysis of how the people in power manipulate our words to keep us stupid, brilliant and inspiring!

“I don’t like words that hide the truth. I don’t like words that conceal reality. I don’t like euphemisms, or euphemistic language. And American English is loaded with euphemisms. ‘Cause Americans have a lot of trouble dealing with reality. Americans have trouble facing the truth, so they invent the kind of a soft language to protect themselves from it, and it gets worse with every generation. For some reason, it just keeps getting worse. I’ll give you an example of that. There’s a condition in combat. Most people know about it. It’s when a fighting person’s nervous system has been stressed to its absolute peak and maximum. Can’t take anymore input. The nervous system has either snapped or is about to snap. In the First World War, that condition was called shell shock. Simple, honest, direct language. Two syllables, shell shock. Almost sounds like the guns themselves. That was seventy years ago. Then a whole generation went by and the Second World War came along and that very same combat condition was called battle fatigue. Four syllables now. Takes a little longer to say. Doesn’t seem to hurt as much. Fatigue is a nicer word than shock. Shell shock! Battle fatigue. Then we had the war in Korea, 1950. Madison Avenue was riding high by that time, and the very same combat condition was called operational exhaustion. Hey, we’re up to eight syllables now! And the humanity has been squeezed completely out of the phrase. It’s totally sterile now. Operational exhaustion. Sounds like something that might happen to your car. Then of course, came the war in Viet Nam, which has only been over for about sixteen or seventeen years, and thanks to the lies and deceits surrounding that war, I guess it’s no surprise that the very same condition was called post-traumatic stress disorder. Still eight syllables, but we’ve added a hyphen! And the pain is completely buried under jargon. Post-traumatic stress disorder. I’ll bet you if we’d of still been calling it shell shock, some of those Viet Nam veterans might have gotten the attention they needed at the time. I’ll betcha. I’ll betcha.”

Actually, though the funniest thing I ever heard Carlin say was on the Tonight Show, and it’s a wonder that he got away with it at the time. In much the same way that All in the Family could probably never exist in today’s politically correct world he’d probably be lynched had he said it in front of Jay Leno rather than Johnny Carson. I’m paraphrasing but basically George talked about how he and Richard Pryor were contemporaries, and how Richard had a heart attack, and then George had a heart attack. Then Richard had another heart attack, which George again followed with one of his own. “Then Richard lit himself on fire and I said the hell with that and had another heart attack!”

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