Goodbye Mr. Carlin

June 23, 2008 at 10:36 am 2 comments

George Carlin passed away yesterday. This makes me sad. Carlin was a comedic and linguistic genius as well as a defender–or perhaps practitioner is a better word — of free speech. Probably best known for his bit on the seven dirty words, Carlin shocked, but did not need to shock, to be funny.

His mind was brilliantly attuned to the absurdities of life, and his gift for language and physical humor allowed him to reflect those absurdities back to us in a way that both challenged and tickled our sensibilities.

George Carlin touched me. Literally. In college I was with a group that brought him to Rutgers for a performance . Before the show began I was charged with guarding his dressing room. The door opened and I felt a tap on my shoulder.

“Hey Buddy”.
“Yes Mr. Carlin”, I replied.
“Where’s the rest room?”
“Right down the hall to the left, Mr. Carlin.”
“Thank buddy.”

As “brush with greatness” stories go, perhaps this doesn’t make the top 10, but I was touched by his gentle manner and the way he called me buddy. I remember a lot of his material that night, but one of my favorite bits was his take on license plates:

  • New Hampshire’s license plates say ‘Live Free … or DIE!!’ I don’t think I want to live in a state that actually mentions death right on their license plates. At the other end of the spectrum is Idaho’s license plates – they say ‘Famous Potatoes.’ I don’t know, I think that somewhere between ‘Famous Potatoes’ and ‘Live Free or Die’ the truth lies. And I think it’s closer to ‘Famous Potatoes.’

Goodbye Mr Carlin, and thanks for all the laughs.


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  • 1. caleb  |  June 23, 2008 at 1:19 pm

    Sweet post, Peter. I was in a hot tub with Sam Kinison once when I was 11 or 12. He didn’t touch me, though.

  • 2. Peter Bromberg  |  June 23, 2008 at 1:26 pm

    Thanks Caleb. When I see you at ALA I want the details on how you wound up in a hot tub with Sam Kinison!

    One other George Carlin connection that I didn’t mention. The first time my wife and I ever spoke to each other was when I went to pick up “Brain Droppings” at the circulation desk. She waited on me and her first impression of me was as a guy who liked George Carlin. We’ve been enjoying each other’s sick senses of humor ever since. So there’s that. 🙂

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