Monday, June 23, 2008


George Carlin
George Carlin, 1937-2008.

A few weeks ago, the Missus and I were wandering the aisles at CostCo, picking up a few hundred dollars worth of “necessities.”

It’s amazing how difficult it has gotten, lately, leaving CostCo without having dropped at least a C-note or two. All those things that suddenly seem so...important to own. Like that side of beef...or the 55-gallon drum of extra-virgin olive oil...or the case of Château Cockamamie. Don’t act so damn superior. You know what I mean.

But this time, what caught our Collective Eye was a DVD boxed set: the complete first season of “Saturday Night Live.”

We couldn’t resist. Perfect to have at the beach in the event of inclement weather...and a reminder of some of our early days together. The first time either of us recalls watching SNL was on the weekend we traveled to Foat Wuth in February 1976, there to have me Meet The Family. It was the Momma d’SWMBO’s birthday, which provided the perfect excuse to invite me along.

That weekend turned out to be thoroughly enjoyable. SWMBO’s family clasped me to their bosom as if I were one of their own. Her parents were friendly without being overly intrusive; her brothers were...well, brothers. The elder of the two was sixteen at the time and was appropriately sullen, while the younger, at age nine, was mischievous, rigging up a three-foot-long straw in order to suck up my Adult Beverage while we were out to dinner.

As for SNL, it was strangely entertaining, a show that was, clearly, still struggling to define itself. Desi Arnaz, of all people, was the host that weekend. I seem to recall that Andy Kaufman put in an appearance.

Thus it was that when we saw the DVD set at CostCo, we snapped it up. A chance to relive these distant memories, oh, boy!

Watching the first show - hosted by George Carlin - it was striking how inchoate everything was. Some of the familiar elements of today’s SNL were already in place, but it had something of the feel of a variety show.

Goofy-Face Carlin
Carlin, meanwhile, was brilliant. We had already been thoroughly familiar with his material back when the show originally aired; now, it (mostly) still sounded remarkably fresh despite its age. Some of the routines were variations on older ones Carlin had been performing since he reinvented himself as a counterculture comic, riffs that had been cracking us up since the early 1970’s.

Carlin’s comedy, in later years, took on what seemed to me to be an increasingly bitter, cynical edge...but that never diminished his appeal to me. He became, in a way, the Counterculture Comedy Curmudgeon, a man with a highly refined Bullshit Detector. His various film performances (e.g., as a priest in Kevin Smith’s Dogma) weren’t so much acting as they were Being George Carlin On Screen...but that was OK, too. You knew what you were going to get.

When I found out this morning about Carlin’s death, I was shocked...and saddened. Heart failure? WTF? Having just watched his performance on the debut edition of SNL, thoughts of him and his work were still fresh in my mind, making the sudden loss all the more jarring.

Godspeed, George.

Oops. Given your well-known cynicism on the topic of religion, that’s a poor choice of words. How ’bout these, which effectively sum up my feelings when I found out you were defunct?

and Tits!

[The post title, in case you’re curious, is from a Carlin routine which had to do with phrases people were very unlikely to say. “Hand me that piano,” for example.]

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