Published at: June 23, 2008, 3:56 a.m. CST by mrbeaks
Hey guys. Quint here. When I was a child my mom hid only one VHS from me. It was a tape that had two movies recorded off of HBO: Cronenberg's The Fly and Aliens. I don't know why that tape. I had pretty free reign to watch whatever I wanted. Case in point, I used to get in trouble at school reciting George Carlin bits to my friends. For some odd reason it was George Carlin and Bill Cosby that I'd do.
And I'm no extrovert, no big public speaker. That was pretty big shit for me to do, put myself out there. I just loved Carlin's material and I loved making people laugh using the material, be it neighborhood kids, relatives or at school (where it was the big no-no).
When I was 12 I moved to Texas. My first year in high school I took Journalism 101 because I wanted to write for the newspaper later in high school. It was around this time that George Carlin came through town, playing at the wonderful Paramount Theater. My stepdad and I got tickets to his show and I asked my Journalism teacher, Mrs. Lubke, if I could cover the concert for the newspaper (she also oversaw that). Keep in mind, this wasn't more than 2 months into my first semester and they agreed.
So I went to the show and it was awesome. The energy he had was just as impressive as it was on his records and HBO specials I was addicted to.
Afterwards, at the urging of my stepdad, I stuck around to see if I could get a couple words with Carlin for the article. After about half an hour, a guy in a purple shirt came out on stage and talked to the two or three people who stuck around. It wasn't Carlin, it was his manager Jerry Hamza.
I pleaded my case. I was a freshman in high school, I was writing up the concert for the school newspaper... could I have an interview?
No, said Mr. Hamza. George was tired, but... BUT... he might be able to talk to me over the phone a week later. He gave me his business card and I told him "It's just a high school newspaper, so no pressure or anything." "That's why I think he'll do it," he told me.
So I set it up and a couple weeks later I'm sitting in my kitchen waiting for the phone to ring. He was supposed to call at 2pm sharp and like you see in the movies, the second hand hit 12 and the big hand moved over marking 2pm and the phone rang.
I dug up this tape a year or two ago, so it's no exaggeration when I say it began like this:
George Carlin: Hi, George Carlin. How are ya'.
8 seconds later...
This was my first interview ever. Not my first celebrity interview, mind you. My first interview ever. I was 14 years old.
We hadn't even began interviewing our classmates in J101 yet.
I took this really seriously. I had a week head time once the interview was locked and I hit the library. I found books on comedy, books on Carlin, researched the obscenity trials, found out some banal trivia... the works. So I threw everything I had at him. I mentioned reading that he got fired from his first job... don't remember exactly where it was... maybe a TV news station. Wherever it was, he got fired for stealing the company van and disappearing for 2 days.
I asked him, "So, where did you go?" He laughed (I remember this part very fondly). It wasn't a mean laugh, it was a very warm laugh and he said he probably just went to Long Island and got high with his buddies, but he chuckled the whole way.
Aside from being very green, I was extremely nervous and I told him so right at the beginning of the interview. He said, "Forget about it. Let me tell you something. One thing I've learned is if you go through life and don't give a fuck you'll find yourself a happier person."
I had a little under 15 minutes on the phone with him before all was said and done. Of course my high school paper couldn't print half the interview, thanks to Mr. Carlin's always dependable filthy mouth, but it was a huge turning point in my life.
If he had been a huge douche to me, I probably never would have pursued more interviews and part of what Harry saw in me when I started hanging around was that I was out there hunting down interviews.
One thing I'll always remember about the man is how the interview ended. I finished my questions and I said that was it... and I'm sorry if it really sucked, but it was my first interview. Very warmly he told me I did fine and that next time he came through Austin I should let myself be known to his people because he wanted to shake my hand.
I saw him perform again a couple years ago... I found Mr. Hamza and told him what Mr. Carlin said. Unfortunately, I caught him between the afternoon show and the evening show at the tail end of his tour and Jerry said it'd have to wait until next time.
There won't be a next time now, but I feel extremely privileged to have spoken to one of my idols and to have it be such a warm experience. I can't say this about many people, but George Carlin directly had a hand in steering me to where I am now. He gave me the confidence to talk to celebrities, no matter how much I idolized them and that if I worked hard enough and was persistent enough I could talk to anybody I wanted.
George Carlin will always be a giant in the world of comedy and he's a giant to me personally. This has been a tough week for me. It feels like my icons and heroes are peeling away one by one. I hope to god this is it for a while. I don't know if I can take another punch-to-the-gut loss without becoming a blubbering mess.
Harry suggested I dig up that old tape and give it a listen... transcribe it for you guys... Despite that being extremely embarrassing for me personally, I just might do it in tribute to the man who meant so much to me.
My thoughts tonight will be with Mr. Carlin, his family, friends and fans.
Shit. Piss. Fuck. Cunt. Cocksucker. Motherfucker. Tits.
Right now, this is just a placeholder to pass along the bullshit news that George Carlin has succumbed to heart failure at the age of 71. We're absorbing the shock along with you. While it's true that Carlin was not a young man, and that he'd be the first to tell us to go fuck ourselves for getting overly sentimental about his death... well, you cranky dead old fuck, we're going to eulogize you whether you like it or not. You meant too much to us. Drew's writing, I'm writing... it's just hard to know where to start. For now, please use the talkback to say whatever you need to say.
Okay, some hastily typed-out thoughts...
In George Carlin's last HBO special, "It's Bad for Ya", the fire-breathing old comic did a bit on the trite horseshit people say to each when someone dies. I didn't laugh too hard at any of it (Carlin's material wasn't material after his wife Brenda died in 1997; it was the brutal, atheistic truth), but I was glad to hear someone savaging this brand of affected, hat-tipping solemnity. "If there's anything I can do." Carlin's retort: "How 'bout coming over and painting the garage."
Delivered deadpan, with an almost imperceptible cock of the eyebrow, it was Carlin in subtle, "You're so spectacularly full of shit, I can't even muster up the outrage" mode. He had a multitude of modes. Scold. Satirist. Blasphemer. Pervert. Foole. And they've all been switched off for good because death can't see its way clear to let us live to 500.
You got the sense that Carlin was dodging the Reaper's scythe over the last few years; there was a stint in rehab, talk of heart trouble, and the inescapable fact that he was getting old. But it was a comfort to know he was out there, mic in hand, raging at the emptiness to come. Carlin had been far too honest with us over the course of his brilliant career - which began in the late 1950s! - to insult us with a softening of spirit; the simple dignity of dying had been co-opted by the same imbeciles who'd ruined everything else in this stupid life, and he wasn't about to go quietly. Again, this wasn't Carlin at his cleverest, but he was way past the point of profane elegance. He just wanted to get some pissed-off shit said before he couldn't say it anymore.
Some may want to revisit these more recent specials to get a glimpse of an artist going down guns blazing, but why go with MADADAYO when you can revisit the SEVEN SAMURAI glory of CLASS CLOWN, TOLEDO WINDOW BOX and his late-career triumph, PARENTAL ADVISORY: EXPLICIT LYRICS? Give me the swordsman in his bloodletting prime. Carlin was already an institution when I discovered him via videotaped SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE in the early 1980s, so I was free to mix and match his present-day screeds with his Vietnam era vitriol. Whereas Mort Sahl and Lenny Bruce were geniuses of a particular time, Carlin's brilliance spanned decades. His bit about Catholic school students pestering a priest over the finer points of observing Easter on "a ship at sea" (which later crosses the International Date Line) has no expiration date. The same goes for his groundbreaking drug humor.
And this is all because Carlin worshipped at the altar of language. He found ecstasy in the precise wording of a joke. He was a professional. And by demanding more of himself, he raised the standards of his audience. He made us better skeptics.
But not perfect skeptics. I'll try laughing tomorrow.
I couldn't have been any older than ten when my father first brought home Carlin on Campus. We had a weekly movie night every Saturday when we would rent a video, make homemade pizza, then watch and ultimately discuss whatever it was we brought home - as a family. This lasted from when I was very young until I graduated high school. One week, however, much to the consternation of my mother, my father brought home this filthy, vile, language heavy piece of brilliance in which George Carlin opened with a prayer and proceeded to pray that Barry Manilow get a boil on his ass. My mother, a huge Manilow fan, recoiled in horror. My father just laughed his ass off. And I laughed with him. I still remember my mother looking at me, cross and trying to maintain authority. I can still hear her. "CHRISTOPHER! I don't ever want to ever hear you use that kind of language, you got me?"
To say that Carlin had an enormous influence on me is something of an understatement. Not only did I record the show off of HBO when next it played (and proceeded to watch it until I had it memorized), but it turned me on to a whole world of stand up - and a whole world of critical thought that allowed you to both talk about very real, serious things while approaching it with a brazen sense of humor and satire. Carlin made you feel like you weren't alone. That the rest of the world really was that crazy, that they really were that stupid, and that sometimes you had to just stand there, scratch your head and ask "What the fuck are you thinking? You don't really believe that, do you?" He was a brilliant satirist, a wonderful thinker, and the man could swear like nobodies business. He could wield an f-bomb like Rembrandt could a brush.
To this day, when I'm bogged down with writers block and can't seem to squeeze out a word, I take a deep breath, put on a Carlin album and paint a miniature until I get my head straight. Works every time. The guy was a complete fucking genius - a one of a kind who kept it up and never lost relevance. All I can say at a moment like this is that I have never, ever in my life wished for there to be a God more than this moment. I mean, can you imagine the fucking reaming that guy is taking from Carlin right now? Holy shit is Carlin gonna give him what for.