They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I first tried to flatter George Carlin when I was about twelve years old. We had an assignment for English class: “do a funny news story”. I think I changed the setting from New York to Chicago (to keep it “topical”), but basically borrowed a joke straight from one of his early HBO specials.
“Police in Chicago caught a man who shot his wife, his two kids, his dog, his cat, two neighbors, five joggers and an ice cream man. In his defense, the man said he was just cleaning his gun when it suddenly went off.”
Of course, I got in trouble for saying this in class. Like I said, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
His classic take on profanity – The Seven Words You Can’t Say on Television – is probably his best known bit. Meka and I saw him in Rockford a couple of years ago and laughed until we couldn’t breathe as he went through his rant about using Colorado and Wyoming (you know, “those big rectangular states that can be easily fenced in”) to house the nation’s murderers and rapists, drug addicts and child molesters. His modest proposal was to open the gates between the sections every so often and televise the result on pay per view. However, I don’t think that reflects his full range. My favorite bit he ever did was Icebox Man. It was just a little riff on the everyday policing of the refrigerator; using the “good bread” a few slices deep into the loaf, and why do people put back the milk when there are only three drops left at the bottom of the jug?
George Carlin died over the weekend, but the inspiration he provided lives on in anyone who loves playing with the English language, skewers hypocrisy, makes observational humor or just “thinks up goofy shit you may have known at one time, but have since forgotten”. As he finishes in Icebox Man, “It’s fresh. Someone is saving it. It will turn up in something.”
And that makes me smile every time I think of it.