The Wise and True Prophets of Comedy (Part 1): George Carlin

Carlin: The "Socrates" of comedy

Wisdom and Truth can be garnered from the most unlikely of places – none more so than the spectacle of stand-up comedy.  So I’d like to introduce you all to two such past comedic greats who can be considered true prophets of their craft.

The comedians in question were George Carlin and Bill Hicks, who both penetrated our conscience, and raised our consciousness with their pinpoint insights and observations into all the pretentious bullshit and hypocrisy that society propagated and continues to propagate – not to mention, provoking uncontrollable laughter at the same time.

Both Carlin’s and Hicks’ social and political views were considered controversial at the time – but controversy does not mean that they were wrong.

Here is an excerpt from the George Carlin Official Website detailing Carlin’s autobiography ‘Last Words’ which contains his comedic value, iconoclastic views and philosophy of life:

LAST WORDS also delves into Carlin’s work as a stand-up comedian, and his acting aspirations, in which he offers a frank account of his talent: “I was devastatingly inept! There were no Oscars in sight.” In the end, the book is a celebration about a boy from Harlem who knew how to make people laugh and forever changed the face of comedy in America and the world.

George… on politics: I had a left-wing, humanitarian, secular humanist, liberal inclination on the one hand, which implied positions on myriad issues. On the other I had prejudices and angers and hatreds towards various classes of people. None of which included skin color or ethnicity or religion. Well—religion, yes. I used to get angry at blue-collar right-wingers but that passed because I saw that in the end they were just a different sort of victim.

…on values: The worst thing about groups are their values. Traditional values, American values, family values, shared values, OUR values. Just code for white middle-class prejudices and discrimination, justification for greed and hatred. I believe in giving everyone, as I encounter them, one at a time the full value of their dignity and their honor in the world. Whether I’m seen as a celebrity on an elevator or I’m just George the stranger, I open myself to them and I take them in and I give them everything I would want myself in terms of treatment, feeling and consideration. I call that a value.

…on being an individual: It always seemed to me that the reasons groups came together were superficial. The group didn’t feed me and I had nothing to contribute to it. I had a deeper goal, this giant puzzle to work on, which was only going to happen if they left me alone… The aloneness of the stage makes groups irrelevant. Few things dramatize the face-off between loner and group more starkly than the artist before the audience. And there’s no irony here. If this loner can’t get the audience to act as a group—laugh together—he’s fucked.

The Truth or not the Truth – That is the Question

In the following video, Carlin offers us some good advice, as he tells us to question everything we think to be true…communicated in his own irreverent but humorous way of course.

Read part 2 of the series: ‘The Wise and True Prophets of Comedy (Part 2): Bill Hicks’.

4 Comments

  1. Man Jason, I love how you display knowledge & wisdom from “unlikely” places.

    I absolutely love George Carlin. The first time I seen him I knew he was on the right plane. I have to admit, even though I find him hilarious and label him a truth-speaker, I have not seen or heard his entire catalog. I probably only seen about 1/4 of his work.

    He hit this one right on the head. Especially when he was going through all the taught thoughts of Americans. Too funny and true!

    I’m looking forward to the next one bro!

  2. Carlin is in the tradition of the great Muckrakers, like Lenny Bruce. Fortunately, for him, the times were more liberal, so he could avoid the sting of censorship. “My way of joking is to tell the truth. It’s the funniest joke in the world.” Bernard Shaw said that, but I think it refers to all the great comedians.

  3. Jason Cooper says:

    Hi Ali,

    Carlin was fantastic and I do recommend you to view or listen to the rest of his material.

    Do a google search for “george carlin collection torrent” – you should find plenty of sites hosting this DVD for download which should contain all his shows since 1977 to 2008.

  4. Jason Cooper says:

    Hi NP,

    I love Lenny Bruce also – spoke his mind and didn’t give a s**t if the police were in the audience watching. Such a tragic ending for him though – the good die young I suppose.

    Have you seen the biographical movie ‘Lenny’ played by Dustin Hoffman? Great perfomrance from Hoffman as usual and a fascinating film on the life of Bruce.

    Also check out the documentary about Lenny Bruce ‘Swear to tell the Truth’ – fantastic viewing.

    If it wasn’t for Lenny who opened the doors, there probably wouldn’t have been a George Carlin. And if there wasn’t a George Carlin, there probably wouldn’t have been a Bill Hicks.

    Thank you, Lenny, for speaking the truth always and inspiring others to do the same.