Monday, June 23, 2008

George Carlin: 1937-2008

George Carlin: 1937-2008

He may never have trod the boards of Broadway like other comedians, but George Carlin certainly knew how to command a stage. He also knew how to get himself arrested from one, too.

I was sad to learn that the great comedian died yesterday of heart failure. He was truly one of a kind.

Having grown up in Milwaukee, I certainly knew who Carlin was -- he has been a household name there for 36 years. After all, it was his appearance at Brew City's Summerfest in 1972 where he was famously arrested for including the seven words you can't say on television (or at the time, on a stage in Milwaukee) in his act.

As the very first host of NBC's "Saturday Night Live," Carlin questioned everything from the ingenious to the inane. One of my favorite riffs from that appearance concerned the color of food:

Why is there no blue food? I can't find blue food - I can't find the flavor of blue! I mean, green is lime; yellow is lemon; orange is orange; red is cherry; what's blue? There's no blue! Oh, they say, "Blueberries!" Uh-uh; blue on the vine, purple on the plate. There's no blue food! Where is the blue food? We want the blue food! Probably bestows immortality! They're keeping it from us!
Years later, as I was riding an escalator at the Las Vegas Airport, who should be standing right in front of me but the affable George Carlin himself. And of all things I could muster to tell him I appreciated, it was that riff on blue food. So generous and kind and interested was the comedian, that the two of us ended up having a conversation all the way down to the departure gate for my flight.

Almost in spite of those seven infamous words, the man had the capacity for making one think about life and all its mysteries, banalities and indignities with amazing insight and amusing humor.

And even though he may never have found that elusive blue food that could make us immortal, he made us laugh. He will be missed.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

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3 Comments:

At 23 June, 2008, Blogger Esther said...

I was so sad and shocked when I read about George Carlin this morning. What a very sweet tribute. And that's so cool that you got a chance to have a conversation with him.

I like "blue food" too, but another one of my favorites is baseball vs. football, which I think just captures the two sports so perfectly: "The object in football is to march down the field and penetrate enemy territory and get into the end zone. In baseball, the object is to go home." :-)

 
At 23 June, 2008, Anonymous Chris Caggiano said...

I'm so so sad about this, I can't tell you guys. I've been listening to Class Clown and AM/FM all night. It's amazing how much of what he's talking about still applies today, whether it's profanity on TV or the pointlessness of war.

When I was a kid, my dad overheard me listening to a Carlin album, came into my room, calmly took the LP off the turntable, and smashed it on my bureau. I stole his thunder a bit when I said, "Dad, that's Joey's album."

My father's attempt at sanctimony only solidified my resolve, and I remain a staunch Carlin fan to this day. Apparently my dad never listened to The Fantasticks:

Dogs got to bark, a mule's got to bray.
Soldiers must fight and preachers must pray.
And you can be sure the devils' to pay,
The minute that you say "no"

 
At 23 June, 2008, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Esther and Chris, This news made me incredibly sad. I was so very shocked when I learned this morning of the incredibly gifted comedian's passing that it left me in a profound funk all day long. I'm just relieved to know I'm not alone.

 

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