I learned of George Carlin’s demise from an e-mailer who used the seven dirty words as the subject line. (Good to know my spam filter’s every bit the ace I suspected it was.) I’m sorry to hear the news. Carlin was a genius. He may still have been at the end, but the last HBO special I saw wasn’t very funny — he came across as bitter and angry, which can work, but didn’t this time.
The thing is, I’d just heard him in an NPR interview, and he was hysterical, so I don’t know what happened. He was famous for his dirty-words routine and could work blue with the best of them, but he always did it askance, light-heartedly — the biggest laugh in the seven-words routine is just two of them: “Tater tits.”
It’s early, and I can’t quite think yet — maybe I’ll have more to add later. But this is an open thread for George, the first hippie stand-up comic. RIP.
Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on June 23, 2008 at 8:20 am
And speaking of high school album listening (from the previous thread), George Carlin was a gateway drug to Richard Pryor — thanks, guy. And he was a marvelous skanky bishop in “Dogma” (go rent it, watch after kids in bed, don’t drink carbonated beverages while watching).
Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on June 23, 2008 at 8:32 am
Not to change the topic, but seeing this — bar, Obetz, bear — made me think it had to come to the attention of our host: http://www.newarkadvocate.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080623/UPDATES01/80623008
James said on June 23, 2008 at 8:34 am
My first “concert” was George Carlin at Vets Memorial in Columbus. I was probably 14 or 15 (I remember my mom had to drive me). So this would have been around 1974 or so…
My other memory was that people were openly passing joints around the whole auditorium during the act, but I didn’t partake.
The show was great, as I recall.
michaela said on June 23, 2008 at 8:53 am
We saw Carlin a couple years ago; he didn’t look well, and he had definitely moved into the bitter and angry stage. It was disappointing… although there were still some moments of high hilarity.
And I second mild-mannered Jeff’s recommendation of Dogma. My first thought on hearing of Carlin’s death was, I wonder what brilliant, profane thing Kevin Smith will have to say about that?
John said on June 23, 2008 at 8:58 am
Silent Bob is quiet on the subject.
whitebeard said on June 23, 2008 at 8:59 am
Jeff, thank you for the Obetz story. My nickname is B’ar (or Bear) so I am always interested in my furry cousins. When a friend from Nebraska was with me on a visit to an anthropology museum in Ohio he thought he had found a kindred spirit when I agreed with him that I did not believe that humans, or those resembling such, had descended from apes. But he was taken aback when I stated emphatically that we had descended from bears.
brian stouder said on June 23, 2008 at 9:11 am
George Carlin, in my memory, is a member of the family; That is to say, when I was a kiddo, we always had his albums on the record rack, and my mom and dad would occasionally (usually on a Sunday) put one onto the stereo (usually with a Tom Jones above it, so that when it ended, my mom could listen to her Tom), and they would laugh uproariously all the way through them. Carlin presented a compelling mix of thought provocation, humor, and (of course) subversion
And the funny thing was, the oldest albums had the familiar silly faces and mugging – but he had ‘60’s style crew-cut hair, and a suit with a narrow tie on. And the later albums had his hair very much longer, and lots of whiskers – and GONE were the neckties and suits!! So in addition to being such a funny guy, the progression of his look, from the 60’s through the 70’s, paralleled my older brothers’, more or less.
velvet goldmine said on June 23, 2008 at 9:18 am
Was it a SUDDEN DEATHHHH?
Sue said on June 23, 2008 at 9:40 am
Carlin’s cuss words didn’t get to me the way his Catholic Childhood Observations did. He was so spot-on, so perfect in conveying the ridiculousness of it. His best, in my opinion: “Hey Father [or as Carlin said, “Faddah”], if God can do anything, can He make a rock so big even He can’t lift it?”. Later on he spoke more seriously of the damage this religious education did. A most interesting man.
Sue said on June 23, 2008 at 9:41 am
Oh, and I third “Dogma”. Sometimes it’s a little too obvious, but George is perfectly cast. Plus it has Alan Rickman in it.
coozledad said on June 23, 2008 at 10:17 am
I think bitterness just comes with the territory, unless you’re some prodigy of enlightened detachment. I just hope it wasn’t the bitterness that killed him.
Dick Cavett quoted this the other day on his blog, and I’m just enough of a twisted little bastard to link to the whole damn downer of a thing.
alex said on June 23, 2008 at 10:26 am
Always loved George Carlin. When I was 12, my dad found my George Carlin album and smashed it over his knee. Okay, fine, dad, I’ll just listen to Cheech & Chong who say far worse things in language your uncool generation doesn’t understand.
Yeah, Carlin struck me as rather grouchy and unfunny the last few years when I’d see him as a guest on Bill Maher’s show and wherever else he’d turn up.
Dorothy said on June 23, 2008 at 10:49 am
My oldest sister was always a huge Carlin fan, but she went to see him in concert about a year or two ago, and she walked out. She said it was just awful, really sickening. Made her very sad.
I like to quote Carlin for something he said about his dog one time. He said his dog always acted just as excited to see him come in the door, whether he had just got back from a week’s vacation, or stepped out to get the mail. There was no difference in his reaction when George stepped back into the house. That’s pretty damned accurate if you ask me.
Mindy said on June 23, 2008 at 10:54 am
Loved the guy for years. Bought most of his albums and still have them, including Class Clown with the famous Seven Dirty Words. The liner notes contains one of my favorite poems, The Hair Piece.
I heard a wonderful interview with George Carlin on NPR when he was promoting his new book Brain Droppings. Such a great interview, he was wonderful. This came to mind a few years later when he came for Fort Wayne to do a show at the Embassy. We were renovating our house at that time and had spent months doing hard work with more months yet to go and were desperate for something fun to look forward to. So we bought tickets and had a nice dinner before the show. The George Carlin we had in mind appeared on stage for about ten minutes. Then the ugliness started and only got worse. People started walking out. We hung in there for another forty-five minutes before giving up and walking out ourselves. Sadly, that’s what I think about whenever he’s mentioned. And the fact that what we spent on the tickets could have gone toward the sinks we had yet to buy.
del said on June 23, 2008 at 11:10 am
Cooz, I must be twisted too. Enjoyed your poem link Aubade.
brian stouder said on June 23, 2008 at 11:13 am
OK – tell me; what did he do?
Was it bitter invective aimed at the government/big shots/church leadership? Or generally crude talk which wasn’t funny?
Just curious. I once saw him on one of the late-night shows (Carson? can’t remember) and all he did was walk out and stand there quietly for 3 minutes. The crowd tittered a little, and laughed somewhat – but it (whatever his concept was) was a failure, and I recall some disappointment in the living room, because his bit had been eagerly anticipated, and then it was a big nothing.
I could never decide if his stick-to-itiveness on that silence bit was more a case of courage, or hubris…..and I wonder if his embittered routines that others are alluding to (but not describing!) are a case of an arrogant, self-described “agent of truth” (whether you like it or not), or a guy who fearlessly plowed forward on some concept or other, despite losing the audience
(watching other stand-ups, it struck me that some large part of the talent is constantly gauging the audience, and modifying the act to suit them)
alex said on June 23, 2008 at 1:47 pm
Brian, it was definitely more of the bitter invective kind of stuff. And it’s not like I disagreed with anything he was saying, just the delivery. He could have been any crotchety gasbag. Michele Malkin comes to mind.
When Carlin was at his best, he had an irreverent good cheer. Lately he just came across as angry.
Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on June 23, 2008 at 2:50 pm
ps – Brian, when you appear on a show 130 times, you gotta try some different stuff. If the silent George was the only one you saw, you missed lots of A-list stuff.
As for heart disease, it can be the other way around — the effects of the dying heart muscle can hammer your moods and attitudes.
Speaking as a preacher on Sundays, unless you’re a manuscript reading drone, a big chunk of your consciousness, let alone your operating unconscious, is noting and reacting and readjusting to congregational response. The place i filled in yesterday had the pastor and the most energetic third of their number off on a work trip, and the largely senior and/or uninvolved folks in the pews gave little or no visible reaction — i really couldn’t tell what was hitting home and working until the “line-up” on the way out the door, when they lit up nicely.
Those preaching gigs exhaust me, but i can preach twice as long and three times as animatedly to a reactive, responsive congregation, and feel half as wiped when the service is over. It takes lots out of you to “read” an opaque congregation. I’ve always suspected stand-up is mucho mondo the same-o.
Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on June 23, 2008 at 3:17 pm
Ah, they’re back on-line — more bear stuff for you, Whitebeard:
http://ohsweb.ohiohistory.org/places/c08/greatcircle.shtml (our new museum; let me know if you can come visit!)
We have some exciting news around here, as the Ohio Historical Society has wearied of butting heads with the country club that operates a golf course atop the 2,000 year old marvel, and is asking the National Park Service if they’d step in and take over:
alex said on June 23, 2008 at 3:29 pm
Jeff, your second link there needs some help.
Hooray for Ohio history. Right now researching a family named Flory in Defiance whose home was reputedly an underground railroad station. What’s interesting about these folks is that they’re among the few United Brethren who were well known as abolitionists, although I keep finding circumstantial evidence to suggest that the UB were quite a bit more active in the antislavery movement than anyone realizes.
Sue said on June 23, 2008 at 4:12 pm
1. Our previous pastor spoke with his eyes over the heads of and to the left of the congregation. To say he was not engaged with us by the time he retired is an understatement. We may not survive him, and it will be our fault as much as his if it happens.
2. At a leader feeder a few years back, the guest minister was from a black church in Chicago. She finally stopped her message and asked us to give her some feedback. Her entirely white audience was being too quiet – we were making her uncomfortable. Since we could not give her the feedback she was used to, we all compromised by providing intermittent polite clapping.
moe99 said on June 23, 2008 at 4:39 pm
Where did the Flory family live in Defiance?
brian stouder said on June 23, 2008 at 5:17 pm
Many years ago, I went to elementary school with a kiddo with the last name Flory. He lived 2 blocks down, and if I recall correctly, his older brother went to Vietnam.
As a little semi-non-sequitur, this article appeared in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette a day ago
about how my (and the Flory’s) old neighborhood has gone to hell. In the paper, it included a satellite shot with the houses numbered, and you could see my old home, where my mom still happily lives.
In fact, I have to go there now, and mow the grass and whip the weeds, and run the blowey
Judith said on June 23, 2008 at 9:10 pm
There is a house near West Unity, Ohio that belonged to the Bowman Dairy family that was part of the Underground Railroad. Eleanor Chamberlain who is around 90 years old can tell you about it. She writes a column for a small paper in the area.
Also, many in the Church of the Brethren participated in the anti-slavery movement. We studied about John Kline just last Sunday. He was trying to stop the fighting during the Civil War, and was shot by the Confederate Army who suspected him to be a spy. He believed slavery should be abolished, but he felt this could happen without the bloody war.
brian stouder said on June 23, 2008 at 9:26 pm
So anyway, I have noted that one of the google ads on the sidebar – which I clicked, so as to chuck 2 pennies into the vast and cavernous NN.c treasure vaults – (I’m always good for putin’ my 2 cents worth in, eh?) is for a publication called “Human Events”, with the teaser “The Real Barack Obama” and “The truth behind the candidate – “Barack Obama Exposed” – Free!”
and when you click it, you get
“Where’s the outrage? He’s an Obamanation!”
and then this pitch:
From his radical stance on abortion to his prominence in the corruption scandals that has been virtually ignored by the mainstream media, Barack Obama is not fit to be Senator — not to mention the next President of the United States. Obama has declared his presidential intentions, but it is up to well-informed and energetic conservatives like you to spare our nation from the scourge of a far-left President Barack H. Obama.
and this made me wonder what the editors at Human Events mean by “where’s the outrage?” Do they want hundreds of thousands of “outraged” citizens, rioting in the streets, in order to “spare our nation” (note that bit of exclusivity, regarding whose nation it is) from the “scourge” of Obama? Are they hoping to incite a lynch mob? Are these the sorts of ‘Human Events’ that that publication aspires to, or advocates for?
My plan is to keep the wick turned down on this stuff, but I don’t know….my darned wick seems to be stuck in the up position (so to speak) (if it persists for 4 hours, I’ll call a doctor)
alex said on June 24, 2008 at 8:15 am
Not sure where the Flory house is, Moe, but I plan to check it out one of these days. And thanks for the info, Judith.
The history books talk about the Quakers leaving the south for the midwest but seldom mention that the Brethren did the same thing at the same time for the same reasons. In researching genealogies, I’m also finding a lot of intermarriage between birthright Quakers and Brethren, many of the former excommunicated by conservative sects for their antislavery activities.
Fun stuff. I may take a couple weeks of my vacation time this summer just to spend roadtripping and cemetery hiking and visiting libraries and historical societies. There’s one figure in particular whose personal papers I’d love to comb for names and places. (She’s mentioned in Levi Coffin’s autobiography, which remains one of my all-time favorite books.)
Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on June 24, 2008 at 10:32 am
Second the Levi Coffin reading! A strong, clear, still-readable book; it and Benj. Franklin’s autobiography both read like they were written by older but fairly contemporary folks — you can dive right into their world and marvel at how they saw it.
moe99 said on June 24, 2008 at 10:56 am
We lived in a newer (at the time) section of NE Defiance, but my great grandfather, Gramps Fauster lived in a big old house on Holgate Avenue, in front of the Maumee River. I remember going there as a small child for Christmas and the Christmas tree would go all the way up to the second floor, positioned next to the stairs in the front hall leading up. I wonder if the Flory’s house would be near there, given the proximity to the river. The Fausters did not make it to the US until after the Civil War, around the time that Germany reunified, although the Fausters came from Schaffhausen. The women tatted and sold lace to finance the trip from what I was told.
alex said on June 24, 2008 at 11:48 am
I’ll let you know what I find out, Moe. The guy was a UB pastor and his name was John Flory. I’m sure he’s probably mentioned in the 19th-century history books on Defiance County pioneers.
Judith said on June 24, 2008 at 6:38 pm
If you’re driving around the NW Ohio area, you might go west on US 20 into Indiana and find the old cemetery just before you get into Angola. There is a large grave marker with a statue of a dog, and a long inscription about how much someone was loved, and how faithful he was. The legend is that a Negro had lived with a family in the area as a good friend, and when he died the family was not allowed to bury him in the town cemetery. However, they later were given permission to bury their dog there–hence the statue and inscription. But the story continues that it was their faithful Negro friend they laid to rest in the grave, and were able to leave a loving dedication to him.
I hope the the Bowman house is still standing near West Unity. It is very tall and has a concealed room in the basement for the Underground Railroad.
There are some Flory families in the area, I think more around Pioneer.
brian stouder said on June 24, 2008 at 8:56 pm
My brother and his wife live in Pioneer; she was a native buckeye, and turned him into one!
alex said on June 24, 2008 at 9:28 pm
Thanks for the tips, Judith!
I’ve spent a fair amount of time not far from there. In Ray there’s a Covenanter Presbyterian cemetery; this was an extreme abolitionist sect. Another place that sets off my abolitionist gaydar is the Powers Church and Cemetery on Old 1; the doctor who founded the Fort Wayne Medical College and later Tri-State University is buried there along with a few other remarkable early citizens. Hauntingly beautiful place. When I read about it later it was fascinating to see that the founders of the cemetery were similarly impressed by the environs; they had to come up with a place to bury a child in the dead of winter. The boy’s father wrote about it quite poignantly in a letter to family back east.
Williams County is a new frontier and I’ve been looking forward to exploring it, so thanks for the leads.
Judith said on June 24, 2008 at 10:03 pm
The Williams County Museum is on the fairgrounds In Montpelier, Ohio. There are many interesting history lesson to be found. There is also a restored log cabin near the museum.
A local historian, Ken Beck, had many health problems a few years ago. If he is able, he would be a valuable resource. He is a retired teacher who lives near Bible Park near Montpelier, at the corner of county Roads J and 10. His son, Kevin, is the county sheriff. Bible Park is named for my Great+++grandfather who was the first settler in Superior Twp. in Williams County. That’s how I remember the names of the roads.
Ken Beck chaired the committee that compiled two volumes of the history of Williams County, many years ago.
alex said on June 25, 2008 at 12:38 am
Judith, I’m learning a lot of cool stuff, even if it doesn’t pan out as far as sure hits on the Underground Railroad. A bunch of UB people came to northeast Indiana via Bethel Township, Miami County, Ohio, the famed Studebaker family among them. The Studebakers, as well as multiple other families, were joined in this region by kin from Virginia and Maryland. Like the Quakers, they had outgrown the Delaware Valley and tried life in the south for a few generations before finding it hostile to their sensibilities if not their well-being.
The Quakers get all the glory, but I keep discovering communities of other faiths that were even more progressive. In fact, there were plenty of excommunicated Quakers who were too radical as regards race and equality. Laura Haviland, of Lenawee County, Michigan, was an excommunicated Quaker turned Wesleyan Methodist. She opened the Raisin Institute, a school for females and blacks whose purpose was to teach basic literacy and trades.
There were sects of Presbyterians and Methodists who broke with their mother churches and sought social equality, not merely an end to the peculiar institution. There were the Universalists. And there were the United Brethren. To this day the Mennonites adopt and serve as foster parents to black children and you’ll find interracial lines in their families. The Quakers didn’t even walk that walk (that is, the ones who weren’t excommunicated).