A site of satirical musings, commentary and/or rhetorical criticism of the world at large.

My Photo
Location: Southeastern, Pennsylvania, United States

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Genius of the Counter Revolution

George Carlin, who passed away over the weekend at the age of 71, accomplished much in his life. He is being remembered today as one of the most influential comedians of the 20th century. Somehow this description barely scratches the surface.

Let’s start with Carlin the comic. In this capacity, he lampooned the absurdities of the English language, and, by extension, the absurdities of our American culture. He found hundreds of examples in his career, but one of his targets that leaps to my mind now is “jumbo shrimp”. He regularly used his logic against the oxymoronic windmills of our society.

It would also be an understatement to call him a member of the counterculture, or that segment of society that doesn’t instantly jump to attention whenever the ruling class snaps its fingers. He came to prominence during the Vietnam Era, when many people (most of them under 30) stood up and said, “Wait a minute”, before blindly acting on the government's orders. We’ll forever debate if the consequences of their actions were right or wrong, but no one should question that these people had the right to do so.

In this respect, Carlin was a pioneer of free speech, arguably the one freedom many Americans hold dear. The court battle that ensued over his “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television” went all the way to the Supreme Court and displayed the flexibility of the U.S. Constitution. Many members of the Establishment would never agree on the outcome of that case, even as they quietly laughed at the routine itself.

Could we consider George Carlin a freedom fighter (another term he lambasted) who used words instead of guns? Sure, why not. He never staged a coup to overthrow America, but he led a revolution nonetheless. An entire generation of comedians have come up and matured under his influence. Their styles may differ, and some of their language makes the original seven words seem quaint. Ironically, for all the battles and bluster he waged over the years, Carlin’s seven words are still not allowed on television.

In the coming days we’ll hear many different labels pinned to his memory. Influential? Definitely! Award-winning? Yes, he won several Grammies for his recordings, and was due to receive the Mark Twain Humor Award at the Kennedy Center in November. His acceptance speech will now be lost to our culture, but we’ll have wonderful memories of all the times he made us laugh. The sound of our laughter was probably the greatest reward we could ever give him.

Above all this George Carlin was simply a very funny guy. Thank you, God, for allowing this genius to walk in our midst. I can just imagine what this genius of the counter revolution would say about this flowery eulogy. I can imagine it even if I dare not print it.


Post a Comment

<< Home