Like all sensible people, I'm a huge fan of George Carlin. I regard him as the very best stand-up comedian, ever. Not only are his routines funny and insightful, but they are delivered so skillfully that you can learn a lot about good public speaking simply by studying his technique. I often tell people that Carlin (and Robin Williams) had a far greater impact on my teaching style than any math ed. specialist ever did. After all, stand-up comedians have to command an audience's attention for up to an hour at a time using only their words and their mannerisms. That's pretty much what math professors have to do!
I recently purchased Carlin's album “Life is Worth Losing.” The album opens with a routine called “I'm a Modern Man.” I was so impressed by it, I was going to transcribe every word. But then I found that it's already available online. I've reproduced the whole thing below the fold. Of course, it's even better if you picture George Carlin saying it in his typical rapid-fire way.
I'm a modern man, a man for the millennium, digital and smoke-free, a diversified multi-cultural post-modern deconstructionist, politcally, anatomically, and ecologically incorrect.
I've been uplinked and downloaded, I've been inputed and outsourced, I know the upside of downsizing, I know the downside of upgrading. I'm a high-tech lowlife, a state-of-the-art bi-coastal multitasker, and I can give you a gigabyte in a nanosecond.
I'm new wave, but I'm old school, and my inner child is outward bound. I'm a hot-wired, heat-seeking, warm-hearted cool customer, voice-activated and biodegradeble. I interface with my database, and my database is in cyberspace, so I'm interactive, I'm hyperactive, and from time to time, I'm radioactive.
Behind the 8-ball, ahead of the curve, riding the wave, dodging the bullet, pushing the envelope. I'm on point, on task, on message, and off drugs. I got no need for coke and speed. I have no urge to binge and purge. I'm in the moment, on the edge, over the top, but under the radar. A high-concept, low-profile, medium-range ballistics missionary. A street-wise smart bomb, a top-gun bottom-feeder.
I wear power ties, I tell power lies, I take power naps, I run victory laps. I'm a totally ongoing bigfoot slamdunk rainmaker with a proactive outreach. A raging workaholic, a working rageaholic, out of rehab and in denial. I got a personal trainer, a personal shopper, a personal assistant, and a personal agenda. You can't shut me up, you can't dumb me down, 'cause I'm tireless, and I'm wireless. I'm an alpha male on beta blockers.
I'm a non-believer and an overachiever, laid back, but fashion forward, up front, down home, low rent, high maintenance; super size, long lasting, high definition, fast acting, oven ready, and built to last. I'm a hands-on, footloose, kneejerk headcase, prematurly post-traumatic, and I have a love child who sends me hate mail.
But I'm feeling, I'm caring, I'm healing, I'm sharing, a supportive, bonding, nurturing, primary caregiver. My output is down, but my income is up. I take a short position on a long bond, and my revenue stream has its own cash flow. I read junk mail, I eat junk food, I buy junk bonds, I watch trash sports. I'm gender specific, capital intensive, user friendly, and lactose intolerant.
I like rough sex, I like tough love, I use the F-word in my e-mails, and the software on my hard drive is hardcore, no soft porn. I bought a microwave at a minimall, I bought a minivan at a megastore, I eat fast food in the slow lane. I'm tollfree, bite size, ready to wear, and I come in all sizes. A fully equipped, factory authorized, hospital tested, clinically proven, scientifically formulated medical miracle.
I've been prewashed, precooked, preheated, prescreened, preapproved, postdated, freeze dried, double wrapped, vacuum packed, and I have an unlimited broadband capacity. I'm a rude dude, but I'm the real deal, lean and mean, cocked, locked, and ready to rock; rough, tough, and hard to bluff. I take it slow, I go with the flow, I ride with the tide, I got glide in my stride. Drivin' and movin', sailin' and spinin', jivin' and groovin', wailin' and winnin'. I don't snooze, so I don't lose. I keep the pedal to the metal and the rubber on the road. I party hardy, and lunch time is crunch time. I'm hangin' in, there ain't no doubt, and I'm hangin' tough, over and out."
I hereby nominate George Carlin for the post of National Poet Laureate.
I second the motion!
That's funny. I mean the fact that you're impressed by that monologue. I heard him deliver it a few weeks ago on (one of the late shows) the night he was on with Ann Coulter - everyone on SB was very excited for days ahead of time: Carlin vs. Coulter. Carlin came out, did this routine, sat down, and said nothing for the rest of the evening.
I have been a Carlin fan for a very long time from back when he would make pithy sociological and political statements. My favorite always has been - to a college audience - think how dumb the average person with an IQ of 100 is, and then remember that half of the world is dumber than that. So I was not at all impressed with a routine that was nothing but wordplay, no pertinent commentary on politics, on ID, on anything. He must have been invited to appear under the condition that he not say anything about Coulter. He took the money and did an innocuous routine. He sold out.
Karl, the man needs to eat. He's running a business, his product is himself. If not bashing Coulter was how he got on tv and it was what he needed to do to pay the bills, more power to him.
I saw his appearance on Jay Leno along with Ann Coulter. I too had hoped for a conflict, but Jay set it up as his usual serial interviews. Carlin didn't break the rules -- except he did say that he had never imagined that he would end up to the right of Ann Coulter (note, check the seating arrangements).
All in all Carlin acted like someone without anything to prove to Ann Coulter. Ann, in her turn, wisely didn't give Carlin a chance by picking a fight she would have lost badly.
It is interesting that you grouped George Carlin with Robin Williams as your two most influential commedians. I enjoy both of them very much, but I can't imagine two comedic styles that could be any more different.
I've always felt that every portion of Carlin's act was completely scripted. Whereas nearly everything that Williams does seems to be ad libbed.
I think all the anticipation of the Carlin/Coulter show was absurd. Did they really think that they were going to break out into a catfight? As the commenter said above, Coulter wisely didn't get into anything with Carlin and he wasn't going to be unprofessional and try and interrupt her interview time. The juxtaposition may have been jarring, but anyone who thought there was going to be some big confrontation was kidding themselves from the get go. Karl's claim that Carlin just "took the money" and "sold out" is patently ridiculous. What someone earns for a Tonight Show appearance doesn't even rise to the level of pocket change for Carlin, and if anything, he avoided cashing in by being a professional. Imagine the media attention he would have gotten had he either refused to go on the show with Coulter, or had turned it into a bunch of mud-slinging. And bear in mind, folks, that Carlin is not a liberal by any stretch of the imagination. He is as pure a cynic as one will ever find. He refuses to vote and considers politics to be one giant scam. All this disappointment at Carlin for not turning that show into a brawl is coming from folks who clearly don't get Carlin in the first place.
As for the bit above, dismissing it as mere wordplay is - again - a sign that one simply does not get Carlin at all. He routinely spends about 1/3 of his act engaging in wordplay, looking at the way we use words. In particular, he likes to make fun of marketing slogans and their emptiness, and the above routine does that brilliantly. There is a point to that routine that goes far beyond clever wordplay. His examination of language is one of the things that sets Carlin apart from virtually every other comedian. It's what makes him more than just a comedian.
I have never found Robin Williams' stand-up routines - all of which, so I understand, are made up on the spot - very funny at all. I think he isa much better actor than comedian, but he is, without a doubt, very 'entertaining' and energetic.
Carlin, on the other hand, whether 'scripted' or not (Ed probably knows - nearly ALL stand-up acts are essentially scripted. I saw Dennis Miller at MSU about 12-15 ywears ago, and about a year later he had a special on HBO and 90+% of it was the exact same stuff he did when I had seen him a year earlier), is brilliant. His social commentary is spot-on, his use of language beyond reproach, and, above all, he is fucking hilarious.
Which is what really counts.
George Carlin is good -- and used to be great. But he's no Bill Hicks.
I moved to San Francisco in 1981. The first friend I made, a friend of a friend, in the mid- to late-70s lived a couple blocks from the Holy City Zoo, a comedy club, where Robin Williams honed, perhaps put together, his approach. He's from Marin, just over the Golden Gate Bridge. Williams was trained as an actor at Julliard.
My buddy was a regular at the Zoo on open mike night for years, and saw Williams perform many times, before his professional career started. He said it was obvious that Williams was a super-talented improviser, and would get into adlib rifs and audience interactions that would paralyze the place with laughter. He knew at the time he was seeing a future star and a unique talent.
My memory of the same club is hearing an open mike performer do [with narative] the sound effects for an entire 1930s Tarzan movie.
Eons ago I dated a member of an improvisational comedy group and attended some rehearsals. Very structured, meticulous things. But the act was legitimate improvisation driven by the audience.
And Jason fails to mention, but I'm sure didn't overlook in his professorial study, how important timing is in comedic delivery. Now there's a scene to imagine. Robin Williams giving an actual college mathematics lecture. He might do it on a dare. How much mathematics he got through in an hour, however....
I second that emotion.
For what it's worth, yes, Carlin's routines are tightly scripted, like most comedians'. A friend of mine saw Carlin live just before his most recent HBO special (which started with the 'Modern Man' bit), and Carlin told the audience that he was refining the routine for that show.
And dismissing the bit because it's just 'wordplay' strikes me the same way as the phrase 'mere semantics', which pisses me off to no end. :)