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Infidels, Freethinkers, Humanists, and Unbelievers
Carlin, George Dennis (1937- )

"I would never want to be a member of a group whose symbol was a guy nailed to two pieces of wood."

"If churches want to play the game of politics, let them pay admission like everyone else."

"Here's another question I've been pondering -- what is all this shit about angels? Have you heard this? Three out of four people belive in angels. Are you fucking stupid? Has everybody lost their mind? You know what I think it is? I think it's a massive, collective, psychotic chemical flashback for all the drugs smoked, swallowed, shot, and obsorbed rectally by all Americans from 1960 to 1990. Thirty years of street drugs will get you some fucking angels, my friend!"

"I say if you're going to go for the Angel bullshit you might as well go for the Zombie package as well."

"Religion has actually convinced people that there's an invisible man -- living in the sky -- who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a special list of ten things he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever 'til the end of time! But He loves you."

-- George Carlin


George Dennis Carlin is a Grammy-winning Irish American stand-up comedian, actor, and author, noted especially for his irreverent attitude and his observations on language, psychology and religion along with many taboo subjects. He is considered by many to be a successor to the late Lenny Bruce.

Born in New York City, George Carlin grew up on West 121st Street, in a neighborhood of Manhattan which he later said he and his friends called "White Harlem", because that sounded a lot tougher than its real name, "Morningside Heights." He was raised by his mother, who left his father when he was two years old. At age 17 and a half, Carlin dropped out of high school and joined the United States Air Force, training as a radar technician. He was stationed in Shreveport, Louisiana, where he began working as a disc jockey on a local radio station. He did not complete his Air Force enlistment. On July 29, 1957, Carlin was discharged.

At the age of 18 and a half, he and Jack Burns, a new announcer at the station, assembled a comedy routine and began booking nightclubs. Soon the act broke up, but Carlin continued to work as a stand-up comic. In the 1960s, Carlin began appearing on television variety shows, notably Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In. His most famous skits were:

The Indian Sergeant ("You wit' the beads … get outta line").

Stupid disc jockeys ("Wonderful WINO …") — "The Beatles latest record, when played backwards at slow speed, says 'Dummy! You're playing it backwards at slow speed!"

Al Sleet, the "hippie-dippie weatherman" — "Tonight's forecast: Dark. Continued mostly dark tonight, turning to widely scattered light in the morning."

Jon Carson — the "world never known, and never to be known"

In 1961, Carlin married Brenda Hosbrook, whom he had met while touring the previous year. The couple had a daughter, Kelly, in 1963. During this period, Carlin became more popular. He became a frequent performer and guest host on The Tonight Show during the Johnny Carson era, becoming one of Carson's most frequent substitutes during the host's three-decade reign. Carlin was also cast on Away We Go, a 1967 comedy show.

Eventually, Carlin changed his routines, and his appearance. He lost some TV bookings by dressing as a hippie, sporting a beard and earrings, but regained his popularity as the public caught on to his sense of style. It is not clear that Carlin has ever lost his hippie sensibilities, as he retains his beard to this day and has often sported a ponytail.

In this period he also perfected what is perhaps his best-known routine, "Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television," recorded on Class Clown, a routine which offended some. In 1973, a man complained to the FCC that his son had heard a later, similar routine, "Filthy Words," from Occupation: Foole, broadcast one afternoon over WBAI, a Pacifica Foundation FM radio station in New York City.

Pacifica received a citation from the FCC, which sought to fine Pacifica for allegedly violating FCC regulations which prohibited broadcasting "obscene" material. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the FCC action, by a vote of 5 to 4, ruling that the routine was "indecent but not obscene," and the FCC had authority to prohibit such broadcasts during hours when children were likely to be among the audience.

The controversy only increased Carlin's fame (or notoriety). Carlin eventually expanded the dirty-words theme with a seemingly interminable end to a performance (ending with his voice fading out in one HBO version, and accompanying the credits in the Carlin at Carnegie special for the 1982-83 season), and a set of 49 web pages organized by subject and embracing his "Incomplete List Of Impolite Words." Ironically, the court documents contain a complete transcript of the skit, in line with what Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. said: "you cannot define obscenity without being obscene."

In December 2003, California U.S. Representative Doug Ose introduced a bill (H.R. 3687) to outlaw the broadcast of Carlin's seven "dirty words," including "compound use (including hyphenated compounds) of such words and phrases with each other or with other words or phrases, and other grammatical forms of such words and phrases (including verb, adjective, gerund, participle, and infinitive forms)." (The bill omits "tits", but includes "ass" and "asshole" which were not part of Carlin's original routine). Carlin was also arrested in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and charged with violating obscenity laws.

Carlin was the first-ever host of NBC's Saturday Night Live, debuting on October 11, 1975 (He also hosted SNL on November 10, 1984.) The following season, 1976-77, Carlin also appeared regularly on CBS Television's Tony Orlando & Dawn variety series.

In the 1970s, Carlin became known for unpredictable performances. He would walk off if no one laughed, verbally insult the audience, or simply not appear. Carlin unexpectedly stopped performing regularly in 1976, when his career appeared to be at its height. For the next five years, he rarely appeared to perform stand-up, although it was at this time he began doing specials for HBO as part of its "On Location" series. His first two HBO specials aired in 1977 and 1978. It was later revealed that Carlin had suffered the first of his three heart attacks during this layoff period.

In 1981 Carlin returned to the stage, releasing A Place For My Stuff, considered by many to be his best album since Class Clown, and making a triumphant return to HBO (and to his hometown) with the Carlin at Carnegie special videotaped at Carnegie Hall and airing during the 1982-83 season. Carlin continued doing HBO specials every year or every other year over the following decade and a half, and became as identified with the cable network's comedy offerings as the performer whose specials practically inaugurated the network, Robert Klein. All of Carlin's albums from this time forward are the HBO specials.

By 1989, Carlin had become popular with a new generation of teens when he was cast as the mentor, Rufus, in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. In 1991, he provided the narrative voice for the American version of the children's show Thomas the Tank Engine, a role he continued until 1998.

Carlin began a weekly sitcom, The George Carlin Show, cast as "George," a cab driver, for the Fox Network in 1993. He quickly included a variation of the "Seven Words" in the plot. The show lasted 27 episodes before being cancelled in December, 1995.

In 1997, Brenda Carlin died of liver cancer. George Carlin did not work for a year following the death of his wife. Also in 1997, his first book, titled Braindroppings was released, which had sold over 750,000 copies as of 2001. In 1999, Carlin returned with an appearance in Kevin Smith's film Dogma. He worked with Smith again with a cameo appearance in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, and a larger role in Jersey Girl.

In 2001, Carlin was given a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 15th Annual American Comedy Awards. In 2004, George Carlin was voted #2 on Comedy Central's list of the 100 greatest standups of all time, just behind Richard Pryor. In December 2004, Carlin announced that he would be voluntarily entering a drug rehabilitation facility to receive treatment for his dependency on alcohol and painkillers.

Carlin performs regularly as a headliner in Las Vegas. He has currently begun a new tour through the first half of 2006, and had a new HBO Special on November 5th, 2005 entitled Life is Worth Losing. - [5], which was shown live from the Beacon Theatre in New York City. Topics covered included suicide, natural disasters (and the impulse to see them escalate in severity), cannibalism, genocide, human sacrifice, threats to civil liberties in America, and how an argument can be made that humans are inferior to animals.

On February 1st, 2006, Carlin mentioned to the crowd, during his Life is Worth Losing set at the Tachi Palace Casino in Lemoore, California, that he had been discharged from the hospital only six weeks previous for "heart failure" and "pneumonia," citing the appearance as his "first show back."

Frisbeetarianism
As a staunch atheist, Carlin has often denounced the idea of a god in interviews and performances, most notably with his "Invisible Man in the Sky" routine. In mockery he invented a fake religion called "Frisbeetarianism" for a newspaper contest. He defined it as the belief that when one dies "his soul gets flung onto a roof, and just stays there", and cannot be retrieved.

James Sherman, the Chicago, Illinois playwright, revived the joke of this mock religion in his 2002 play "Old Man's Friend" as some comic relief in the context of a daughter reconciling with her father when the doctor diagnoses her dad as having cancer and gives him six months to live.

Carlin has also said he might worship the Sun (because he can actually see it) but prays to Joe Pesci because "he's a good actor" and "he looks like a guy who can get things done!"

"Here for the show"
Carlin openly communicates in his shows and in his interviews that his purpose for existence is entertainment, that he is "here for the show." Admittedly, he acknowledges that this is a very selfish thing, especially since he includes large human catastrophes as entertainment, the more lives lost the better.

In a late 1990s interview with Art Bell he remarked about his view of human life, "I think we're already circling the drain as a species, and I'd love to see the circles get a little faster and a little shorter."

In the same interview he recounts his experience of a California earthquake in the early 70s as "an amusement park ride. Really, I mean it's such a wonderful thing to realize that you have absolutely no control... and to see the dresser move across the bedroom floor unassisted... is just exciting." Later he summarizes, "I really think there's great human drama in destruction and nature unleashed and I don't get enough of it."

Carlin has always included politics as part of his material (along with the wordplay and sex jokes), but he has gained increasing respect over the past decade and a half as a perceptive social critic, in both his HBO specials and the book compilations of his material. His HBO viewers got an especially sharp taste of this in his take on the Ronald Reagan administration during the 1988 special What Am I Doing In New Jersey? broadcast live from the Park Theatre in Union City, New Jersey.

Quotations

"They're superstitious, they have these beliefs, these primitive, you know, people believe in a., I mean they're just really kind of credulous, and gullible. People believe in, for instance, hell and angels, okay, these are very primitive, very, very backward to me, backward sounding beliefs, these are child-like, and that's the key, because they get you when you're a kid, they get you when you're little, and they tell you there's a God, and if you can make people believe, I believe this, if you can make someone believe that there's an invisible man, living in the sky, whose watching everything you do, and keeping count of everything you do, which is good and which is bad, then you can make that person believe anything after that, you can add anything you want, the 4th of July shit just rolls right in, land of the free, home of the brave, the press is fair and impartial, justice is blind, all men are created equal, your vote is important, the United States government is on your side, the army is here to keep the peace, the police are on your side...Oh, and freedom of choice, this is the big one, the illusion of choice, we're led to feel free by the exercise of meaningless choices. There are, for instance, important things -- not too many choices, unimportant things-ice cream flavors, what do you want, we've got 31, the flavor of the week, the flavor of the month, but political parties-we're down to two, jeez. Sources of information, media companies down to five, banks, insurance companies, pharmaceuticals, chemical companies, oil companies-used to be seven, down to three, pretty soon it's gonna be two. But if you’re lookin' for a bagel or a fuckin' donut, hey, what do you want-pineapple supreme, hazelnut; we've got everything you want. Cereals, I counted, personally in the store counted 192 different cereal choices, 192. 140 different cat foods, I counted, and that includes a tartar-control cat food for senior citizen cats, okay." - George Carlin, appearance on Dennis Miller Live; [response to why Americans are so easily influenced by advertising]

 
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