Monday, June 23, 2008

George Carlin, 1937-2008

George Carlin died yesterday in Santa Monica of heart failure. He was 71.

A great quote from the NY Times obit:

Although some criticized parts of his later work as too contentious, Mr. Carlin defended the material, insisting that his comedy had always been driven by an intolerance for the shortcomings of humanity and society. “Scratch any cynic,” he said, “and you’ll find a disappointed idealist.”

Still, when pushed to explain the pessimism and overt spleen that had crept into his act, he quickly reaffirmed the zeal that inspired his lists of complaints and grievances. “I don’t have pet peeves,” he said, correcting the interviewer. And with a mischievous glint in his eyes, he added, “I have major, psychotic hatreds.”
I once made him a sandwich when I was working at Whole Foods in Brentwood. He was very polite, even when people came up to him and started talking to him about people they both knew or whatever people talk to brilliant comics about.

I liked his performances, and I've skimmed his books (now I'll probably buy at least one, although it's too late for him to get the royalties), but for me, he will always be Rufus in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. Here's his straight-faced explication of what is one of the stupidest, silliest, and yet and most wonderful premises in the history of film:

That's why I was sent to make sure you passed your History report. If you guys were separated it would have been disastrous for life as we know it. You see, eventually your music will help put an end to war and poverty. It will align the planets and bring them into universal harmony. Allowing meaningful contact with all forms of life. From extra terrestrials to common household pets. And, it's excellent for dancing.
I really don't think that movie would have worked as well as it did without George Carlin to render believable such an absurd idea - that the future of humanity depended on two total slackers. If he could believe in them, so could we. The movie starts out with his explanation of this ridiculousness:
You see, 700 years ago the Two Great Ones ran into a few problems. So now I have to travel back in time to help them out. If I should fail to keep these two on the correct path, the basis of our society will be in danger. Don't worry. It'll all make sense. I'm a professional.
Yes he was.

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