I grew up with comedy albums. I can still do Bill Cosby’s Hofstra from memory, and my brother only has to start singing “Soap, soap, soap” to crack me up. Dr. Demento only opened more doors.
And of course George Carlin was in there. The classic gold albums (FM & AM, Occupation: Foole and Class Clown) are still my favorites, though it’s his routine “Death and Dying” from On the Road that epitomizes what I loved about Carlin: the voices, the microphone mastery, the playful love of words and language how they shape our thinking about Big Heavy Shit.
I didn’t like much of his standup after Parental Advisory because it sounded like he’d stopped going for the funny and gone after the applause. It’s easy to make a friendly crowd hoot and cheer, but making them laugh? That’s hard, man. And to make adults laugh over wordplay and absurdity all while dealing with Big Heavy Shit, that’s really hard. All of the albums that were based on misanthropy sounded like a man who’d just said, “It’s too hard. Fuck it.”
So, I don’t mourn George Carlin, because the teacher I listened to hasn’t gone away and will never go away. Light up some Toledo Windowbox tonight for him.