I haven't been so bummed by the death of someone I'd never met since Spalding Gray threw himself off the Staten Island Ferry. Like Gray, Carlin was a huge influence on my writing, and the way I look at things, and also obviously my fucking truckdriver mouth.
Carlin had just been named a winner of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, and I was looking forward to the ceremony, and him telling all those stuffed shirts at the Kennedy Center exactly what he thought of them. I mean, what took them so fucking long? Carlin should've gotten this award the year after the first recipient, Richard Pryor, won it in 1998. Instead they pissed around, giving the damn thing to funny but unremarkable talents like Jonathan Winters, Whoopi Goldberg, and Billy Crystal.
What, no Robin Williams?
I remember like a lightening bolt the first time I heard the album "Class Clown," and the famous bit "Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television." Carlin got arrested for doing the routine live, and it was referenced in a landmark 1978 Supreme Court case that unfortunately upheld the FCC's prerogative to fine radio and television stations for language that the FCC, collectively, thinks is nasty.
Yes, we're such a nation of prissy old ladies, aren't we? I mean seriously, they're JUST WORDS. They're just words. They're just fucking words, motherfuckers.
Or, in the words of the late, great, George Carlin:
The FCC, a non-elected body, answerable only to itself, appointed by the President of the United States, has taken it upon itself to decide that radio and television in this country are the only aspects of American life not protected by the first amendment of the Constitution. I’d like to repeat that because it sounds vaguely important.The brilliance of observational bits like Baseball v. Football aside, Carlin was at his best, for me, when he just came out and said what most of us suspect is true, and for that, I leave you with this:
The FCC, a non-elected body, appointed and answerable only to the President of the United States, has taken it upon itself to decide that radio and television in this country are the only aspects of American life not protected by the first amendment of the Constitution.
You know why they did it? Because they got a letter from a reverend in Mississippi. A Reverend Donald Wildman heard something on the radio that he didn’t like. Well, Reverend, did you know there are two knobs on the radio? One of them turns the radio off and the other one changes the station! Imagine that, you can actually change the station! It’s called freedom of choice, and it’s one of basic ideals this country is founded on. Look it up in the library, Reverend, if you have any of them left when you get done burning all the books.