American Samizdat

Friday, October 12, 2007. *
Just in case you missed it the first time:
George Carlin - Who Really Controls America
George Carlin - Who Really Controls America

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This has a Taoist ring to it, I think...

George Carlin is a cynic. That's obvious from his comedy routines dating to the Vietnam era. But he's an oddly happy cynic.

"I discovered I didn't care about the outcome on this planet or this country. A lot of comedians and social critics are rooting for a certain outcome or result. I don't. I just enjoy watching the destruction," Carlin said during a recent phone interview to promote his Fox Theatre appearance Saturday night.

Carlin's biting commentaries on culture and language have entertained multiple generations. His rant from the early '70s about the seven words you can never say on television has become folklore and still resonates as people wrangle over the issue of obscenity decades later.

He has taped 13 HBO specials and is set to do his 14th early next year. He's working on his fourth book. Despite some heart problems earlier this decade, he said he feels good and, at age 70, he keeps on touring with an indefatigable spirit.

"I still like people to know what I'm thinking," he said. "I do this for me, not for them. I enjoy getting these thoughts off my chest in my own unique way."

Then again, Carlin is gratified he still has an audience, including plenty of younger people who weren't around when he began his career. "People say I've changed their whole outlook on things in more profound ways than comedy normally affects them. Things like, 'My father and I weren't getting along, but we watched your show and now we're buddies again.' I don't aim for that sort of thing, but it's gratifying and makes me feel worthy."

Carlin said he has no real hobbies, no need to ride motorcycles or cook gourmet meals. ("My hobby is being alive," he notes.) He doesn't blog about his thoughts on his Web site, which hasn't been updated in years. He doesn't hobnob with other celebrities, much less other standup comics.

"I love watching people destroy themselves in public," Carlin said. "That's kind of fun. But I don't participate in show business. I just do my stuff. I'm a combination artist and entertainer. The artist does the writing. The entertainer performs. They live happily together and have a good time."

And though Carlin keeps up with the news and mines it for material, his routines don't play off the headlines a la Jay Leno. "It's too easy," he said. "I don't like targets that are easy. I do mention people along the way to make a point. I mention George Bush a couple of times in my current show. It's not about him specifically, but he comes in for a little abuse on the side."

Take Michael Vick. Carlin sighed and called the star quarterback's dog-fighting travails a "side attraction in the big circus of America. That's not the kind of thing I generally talk about. But I did write about how I feel about humans vs. animals. I agree with the writer Patricia Highsmith. She said a friend told her if she saw a baby human and a baby kitten crying in the street, she'd feed the baby kitten. I agree with that. That's what I would do: Put animals ahead of human beings."

In fact, Americans in his mind prefer to focus on the sideshows and ignore the big picture.

"People have lost interest in governing themselves," he observed, "for the sake of gizmos and toys. They sold out for jet skis and cellphones and salad shooters and leaf blowers. It's just a shame. It will be the ruin of this country. But it's fun to watch.
posted by Uncle $cam at 2:59 PM
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