Farewell, George

Death won’t silence George Carlin. That, for those of us who remain, is a good thing.

We’ll always have his intelligence, his irreverence and his outrage, all preserved on the media of the moment.

Word that he’d passed didn’t strike me as particularly surprising. His health had seemed precarious in recent years. Perhaps I noticed it more because he canceled a show we’d planned to see a couple of years ago. We never did get to see him.

George Carlin always summons some bittersweet memories. I grew up watching Johnny Carson with my dad in the late ’60s and early ’70s. Some fathers and sons play catch. We watched Carson.

When Carlin’s routines veered from the mainstream to the counterculture, Dad no longer thought Carlin was all that funny. It was partly a generational thing, and partly Dad’s naivete about comedy. (For example, Dad also was dismayed to find out Buddy Hackett cleaned up a rather foul-mouthed routine for all those Carson appearances.)

The problem was, I found Carlin plenty amusing. Then along came Richard Pryor, whom I found even more amusing. And that is how fathers and sons start to grow apart, or at least how sons start to become their own man.

There’s more Pryor than Carlin in my collection, and I’ve always been on the lookout for more Pryor, not more Carlin.

Perhaps I should rethink that. There always are copies of “Class Clown” and “FM and AM” in the dollar bins at our local used record store. Perhaps I should get them and introduce Carlin to our 13-year-old son. After all, I was younger than that when George Carlin started influencing my sense of humor.

Here, then, is a classic Carlin bit that’s acceptable to Dad, appropriate for Evan and one of my faves:

“Baseball-Football,” George Carlin, from “An Evening with Wally Lando,” 1975.

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Filed under June 2008, Sounds

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