Originally Posted by Pokerho
Carlin was great for his day, but that was back when people were dumb.
Hmmm, the odd thing about this statement is that Carlin's "day" spans several decades and many different styles:
Mid-1960s to about 1971
: Gentle, almost vaudeville-style comedy. I immediately think of the Hippy Dippy Weather Man although he probably had other popular characters. A little too Laugh-In for me, so this is the least-represented of his work in my collection.
: Seminal, First Amendment material. Most notably the "Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television" and its sequel, "Filthy Words." This was also a time when his material was more about his own life rather than general comedic riffing on everyday subjects. (Class Clown
is almost all about his New York childhood.) I've often wondered if Bill Cosby inspired that -- Cos was perhaps the first major comedian to tell funny personal stories to great effect. Carlin's delivery was still relatively subdued even though his look had changed to match the counterculture vibe of the era.
Mid 1970s to early 1980s
: Almost a hybrid between his early work, in that his act consisted of self-contained observations; and his Class Clown/Occupation: Foole era, in that he refused to comply with the buttoned-up tastes of old-school show business that still ran everything. I feel like this span was lighter on social commentary and heavier on broad and sometimes scatological subjects, which makes it a relatively meh period for me.
Mid 1980s to Mid 1990s
: I call these the Grumpy Old Man years, even though he continued his manic stage presence for the rest of his life. One of the sets (I think it's Back In Town
) has a long bit simply titled "Free-Floating Hostility." That might as well have been the name of every bit during this era. Some people don't like this kind of thing, but I got into Carlin, Hicks and Kinison when I hit my 20s so I think the rant-and-riff comedy caught me at the perfect age.
Late 1990s to Death
: Similar in style to the previous set, the home stretch of his life combined the ranting of the earlier 90s with the crude/broad material of the mid-1970s but was marked with the socio-political acidity of the early 1970s. Again, this might all be about timing for me personally, but the classic "Why We Don't Need Ten Commandments" came about when I probably at my most cynical about religion, while the material about parenting from his final tour took place when my cohorts were in their peak child-rearing years.
The one real recurring theme throughout Carlin's career is his self-described fascination with our language and lexicon, certainly helped by his mother working in advertising all her life. All of the individual Carlin bits on my iPod have this in common:
"Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television" (1972)
"Filthy Words" (1973)
"Baseball-Football" (several versions)
"Parents' Cliches And Children's Secret Answers" (1977)
"The Incomplete List Of Impolite Words" (1984)
"Offensive Language" (1990)
"Feminist Blowjob" (1990)
"Euphemisms" (1990) - now that we have a mass of GIs returning from the Middle East, the run on shell shock/battle fatigue/operational exhaustion/post-traumatic stress disorder has become very timely again.
"Airline Announcements" (1992)
"Free-Floating Hostility" (1996)
You Are All Diseased
(the entire album/show) (1999)
"Why We Don't Need Ten Commandments" (2001)
"A Modern Man" (2006)
In fact, based on this particular body of work, I've long made the argument that no one had a better command of American English's nuances than George Carlin. He was a walking urban dictionary long before that ever became a website.