Waking up this morning, I turned on the news to find that one of my teenage idols, comedian George Carlin, had passed away this weekend. It was a sucky feeling to wake up to, but one that is sadly all to prevalant in the news, with so many passings of celebrities in the last few weeks.
Everyone has their story to tell about the first time they listened to George Carlin. Everyone remembers that first album, that first belly laugh, and the first joke of his that stuck in your mind so much that everytime you heard it, it still brought you to tears with laughter. I'll never forget the profound impact George Carlin had on me, and the first time I listened to one of his comedy albums. A friend of mine back in high school played segments from "Jammin In New York" and "What the Hell Am I Doing in New Jersey?" in the library the one day, while we were hanging out before classes. His material on the first Iraq War, the Regan Administration, and general everyday life was so funny to me, mainly because he had the most creative use of profanity, along with a general sense of discomfort with modern society. When you're in High School, you're either a popular kid who loves how the system works, or you're an unpopular kid who wants to shake the system to its very core and do it with a smile on your face.
George Carlin made me very much proud of my outcast station in life.
It is with great sadness that we acknowledge his passing. After some time in rehab, Mr. Carlin (or George, as he'd probably be demanding to be referred as) seemed to be doing ok. He went into the hospital yesterday complaining of chest pains, and not long after died of heart failure. Some would say it's fitting...that his comedy displayed a lack of heart or soul or concern for his fellow man. I say that's bullshit. Yes, his message was vulgar, crude, and sometimes bitter, but it was because he was one of those people who knew what the world was once like, and he demanded better. He demanded better from the politicians who were ripping off the little guy, he demanded more from the general public who were smug in their hipness and "political correctness", he demanded more from religion and its figures, who are all to happy to stand idly by and say "faith prevails" when shit goes down.
He didn't care for the sycophants, the phonies, and the manipulators in the world. He DID however care for people who knew better or who didn't know better, anyone who wasn't the cause of the ills of the world. He cared for those who wished things were better, and became a voice for a generation that was fed up with the Establishment and its constraining rules. He defied the FCC, he defied "conventional wisdom", and he came up with aces in the end. His material, no matter how vitrolic or bitter, taught (and will continue to teach) people to ask for more from those in power, and to tell them right to their face when they were wrong, as opposed to cowering in a corner and muttering to themselves. Whatever the case, he may not have believed in God or Heaven, but if they do indeed exist, he's there and he's making them all laugh.
Rest in Peace, George Carlin. May a worthy successor take your mantle, and lead a new generation, to dare to ask for only the best the world can give them.