Without a question, my favourite comedian of all time. The comedian who got me into comedy. The first standup CD I ever owned was a burned copy of Carlin's HBO special, You Are All Deceased.
My discovery of George Carlin came by accident. My cousin gave my dad a copy of Carlin's first book, Brain Droppings, which he never read, and the aforementioned copy of You Are All Diseased, which he never played. The book and CD stayed by the father's bedside for a while, until one day, on a whim, I flipped through Brain Droppings, a book collecting his standup routines and assorted musings. I was instantly hooked. I read it for hours, totally amazed by the truth and humour with which this man wrote. I've read Brain Droppings 7 times.
I became obsessed with his material, reciting it endlessly to friends and family, and touting them as truisms. George lit a spark in me, made me really think about the world around me, about words and the meanings attached to them. As hateful as he sounded in later years, as much as he could descend into lecturing the audience, he stayed funny and he stayed relevant. Beyond his greatest success in the 70s, he continued to comment on the world around him into the 2000s. In the 90s, he attacked the incessant self-obsession and self-satisfaction embodied in yuppies, critiquing how soft society had become. In the 2000s, George became obsessed with death, and this obsession came through most clearly in Life Is Worth Losing, his 2nd last comedy special.
I owe Carlin too much to ever recount it all, but he made me think while still being funny.
You should read this appreciation of George by comedian Louis CK, it's touching and wonderful.
From right to left: George Carlin with his comedy partner Jack Burns
I want to leave you with one of my favourite Carlin bits. It's not devastating social satire, it's just a riff on the word "shit." It's one of the earliest routines that finds George breaking down the meaning and significance of a word that most of us don't think of as important. And it's the first track of my favourite Carlin album, FM & AM.
"Shoot" - George Carlin (FM & AM, 1972)
And for the hell of it:
Goodbye George, we'll miss you.