Daily Archives: June 22, 2010

George Carlin, 1937 – 2008

Two years ago, controversial funnyman George Carlin passed away.   But he left a huge body of work, spanning both decades and formats.

If you want to know more about his early stand-up career, why not try George’s Best Stuff?  The clips range from 1978 to 1988, and include some of his most famous bits.  George Carlin’s Personal Favorites is another such compilation, featuring performances from 1977 to 1998.  However, if you lost track of George in his later years, the library has several HBO specials, including Complaints and Grievances (which was filmed live, ten weeks after September 11th), Life is Worth Losing and It’s Bad For Ya.

In his later years, Carlin also tried his hand at books, including Napalm and Silly Putty and When Will Jesus Bring the Porkchops? Notice that I linked to the audiobook versions – read by Carlin himself, of course – because they are an almost identical experience to his live stand-up albums, except for the somewhat noticeable lack of an audience.  If you find that unnerving, as some listeners do, they’re also available in traditional book format.

Maybe you’re interested in Carlin’s acting career.  His little-known first role was in With Six You Get Eggroll in 1968.  This was followed by the slightly less obscure films Car Wash in 1976 and Outrageous Fortune in 1987.   It wasn’t until 1989 that Carlin introduced what is arguably his most famous character – Rufus, a time-traveling “fairy godmother” to two vapid teenagers, in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.  (Over the next three years, this goofy flick spawned a sequel and a short-lived animated TV series.  This franchise was arguably the launch of Keanu Reeves’ career, as well.  Most triumphant!)  Carlin then appeared in The Prince of Tides, which was nominated for Best Picture.  Later, he became associated with Kevin Smith’s View Askew Films, playing roles in Dogma and Jersey Girl.   He even guest-starred in an episode of The Simpsons – D’oh-in’ in the Wind.

Given the tone of most of Carlin’s work, perhaps his most surprising aspect is his work with children’s entertainment.  He voiced the character of Fillmore, a psychedelic VW bus, in Cars.   He was also Mr Conductor on Shining Time Station, and then narrator on the related show Thomas the Tank Engine.  (Incidentally, one of his predecessors was Ringo Starr, and one of his successors was Alec Baldwin.)   One of Carlin’s final projects was the voice of the Wizard, in the movie Happily N’ever After.

Carlin’s actual final project was Last Words, an autobiography that was nearly completed when he died.  I haven’t listened to this one yet; I’ve been saving it until I’m caught up on the rest of his work.  In the meantime, it’s nice to know there’s some “new” George Carlin material out there.

Lucky for me, it’s hard to miss a guy that’s done as much as George has.



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