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Monday, June 23, 2008

Appreciation: George Carlin

The world is a little less truthful today.

It can afford to be. One of the great truth-tellers of a generation is gone.

I really don't have the words to describe my thoughts on the late master comedian George Carlin. He is a major influence on my work and my approach to life. Outside of Richard Pryor, he is one of the biggest non-literary influences I have. His near monastic detachment is the essence of the Amusement & Outrage approach I take to all things. I haven't explained what A&O means, but Carlin does below, more articulately than I can.

I'll have more to come in the next few days, but I'll let the man speak for himself.

[A]t some point there leading into the '90s, I divorced myself from any stake in the human adventure or the American adventure. That sounds kind of pompous so let me just break that down. What I decided was that I didn't give a fuck about what happens on this planet to these people. I mean, I see the nice things in people, I see the good things, but I also see what a depraved, sick species we are, the only species that kills its own for personal gain.

I'll go back to square one on this: We squandered a lot of gifts. Human beings were given a lot of great gifts. We were given the ability to reason, this extra-large brain, walking erect, having binocular vision and the opposable thumb, and all of these things, and we had such promise, but we squandered it on goods and superstition. We gave ourselves over to the high priests and the traders, and they are the ones we allow to control us. I think that's a huge mistake and it's disappointing to me. Now, the corollary is, America was given great gifts, this ideal form of government, this most improved form of self-government that has ever come along up until that time, and we squandered it. And once again, on the same two things: gizmos and toys and gadgets -- goods, property, possessions -- and also this country is far too religious for its own good.

So at some point, I drifted away from feeling any allegiance. Abraham Maslow the psychologist once said, "The fully realized man does not identify with the local group." Boy, when I read that, I said, that's me. I don't identify with city, state, government, religion, association, county, organization or species, even. And what I realized was that this feeling of alienation from all that gave me a kind of emotional detachment that was very valuable artistically. To be able to look at things and not give a fuck. To not have a rooting interest in the outcome. I don't really care what happens in this country. I'll be honest with you. I don't give a fuck what happens. I don't give a fuck what happens to this earth, because it's all temporal and it's all bullshit.


I do feel that when you're born into the world, you're given a ticket to the freak show, and when you're born in the United States, you're given a front-row seat. And some of us have notebooks. Some of us who sit there have a pencil and a notebook, and so that's what I want to do.

An appreciation from The Nation Magazine

Carlin Essentials

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