When I was growing up, my parents had a stereo system in our living room. It was made up of a record player, that was white and light blue — to coordinate with my mother’s carpet and sofa — and two speakers. These sat on a little stone shelf that came out from a fireplace in which she kept dried flowers. The fireplace itself was never used, which is good because the bricks had been painted white — to coordinate with my mother’s color scheme.
I remember several records that my parents had and that I used to listen to all the time. One was “Peter and the Wolf” together with the “Young Person’s Introduction to the Orchestra,” and three were humor recordings. Of these, there was Paul Allen’s collection of humorous songs including “Hello Mudduh, Hello Fadduh,” which was our favorite — I actually made my brother write down and mail me the lyrics the summer I went away to sleepaway camp — as well as a catchy tune about Louis the XVI’s beheading. Another was a recording of Don Imus calling a drive through to order 500 hamburgers. Ok…
And the third was a recording by George Carlin that featured a piece known as “The Seven Words You Can’t Say On Television” as well as some great material about being the class clown in Catholic school and how many sins were rolled into the one sin of wanted to “feel up” a girl in his Catholic school class. “It was a sin to think about it feeling her up, it was a sin to feel her up, etc.” (I can hear that one in my mind but can’t recall how it went exactly.)
I don’t know if I loved George Carlin because of the brilliant musicality of his content and delivery, because of his unequaled timing and insight, because of his playful yet pointed mocking of authority. In fact, I can’t even begin – at least not at 11:30pm — to express why he was such a genius for me. But I knew that he was. In the last few years, I have continued to marvel at how smart he was and how talented he was to write and deliver those long, musical patter-like sets.
Recently, I was fortunate enough to see George Carlin perform at the Beacon Theatre here in New York. I regretted at the time and still regret that my friend and I were a few minutes late because we ran long at a Turkish restaurant nearby. But still I was fortunate enough to see him perform live. The show was themed around suicide, something that few people could pull off, and which, of course, he made hilarious. The most memorable part was the section where he suggested a reality show of people who would like to kill themselves on TV. I think he could have successfully pitched it to a television producer.
I miss him and wonder what he had been working on since I last saw him perform.