George Carlin: It’s Bad For Ya!
On June 22, 2008, George Carlin died a glorious old fuck. Lucky for us, he did one more HBO special before he "went away."
Most people who have made an impact pushing the envelope can only manage to do so for a short while. At best, they last for a generation, and then either get boring and redundant, or burn out completely.
George Carlin never ran out of steam in the public eye, as his last HBO special, It’s Bad For Ya! is as ferocious and hilariously poignant as anything else he produced in his 50+ years of doing comedy. Shot in Santa Rosa on March 1, 2008, his fresh material breaks through the bullshit of modern life just as well as all his other routines, with an even stronger and more lucid force than ever.
He embraced his place in life, not just as an influential social critic, but as a rowdy, old fuck. In fact, he took the time to describe the difference between being an "old man" and an "old fuck," embracing all the joys of growing old, like faking Alzheimer’s disease at the dinner table with your kids. "It’ll fuck their heads up for a week!"
But it was never just about being crass with Carlin. He was a genius who used choice words to rattle our complacent society, and knew how to play with vernacular and the English language like a samurai wields a sword. Starting off a show by saying, "fuck Lance Armstrong!" seems little more than an attempt to shock the crowd, until he quickly follows it up asking, "aren’t you sick of being told who your heroes ought to be?" That is what made him great: his ability to rock the boat enough that we could wash away even a little of the bullshit we were being fed.
Carlin always stayed in touch with the times, and was able to stay relevant throughout his entire career. And not just because he can be just as funny when he talks about Wikipedia as he can talking about airline security…ok, almost as funny…but moreover in the way he sees the world. Attacking things like Child Rearing, for example, and how backwards parents can be. Going from, "children are not our future," to turning the aim at teachers and parents by saying, "children should be taught to question everything they read," all centers around Carlin’s central theme of the special (and of his life’s work): "It’s all bullshit, folks, and it’s bad for ya."
Carlin is one of those legendary icons who have been dubbed "counterculture" and "anti-establishment," and while those hold true, this is all really just a result of him seeing how much bullshit we gladly lap up on a regular basis. "Bullshit," he points out, "is the glue that binds us as a nation."
The world is certainly poorer now that Carlin is gone, but American culture is much richer because of his impact.
It’s Bad For Ya! is running through the various HBO channels, as part of their tribute to George Carlin. Laugh.com has scheduled to release the performance on cd July 29.