Collected Works of George Carlin (R.I.P.)

Rather than post links to tribute articles on George Carlin, who died Sunday at age 71, I thought that perhaps it would be better to post several of his performances--since his legacy is so completely wrapped up in his presence as a stand-up comic and in his unique style and comic delivery.

This first piece will be a bit disorienting to those that only know Carlin as the bearded hipster that he was for most of his career. Here, a clean-shaven Carlin--in suit and tie!--makes a 1966 appearance on the Johnny Carson "Tonight Show." Featured is his "hippy dippy weatherman" character that was his best-known comedy bit in the years (early to mid-1960s) before his comedy became more counterculture and controversial in nature.

This piece from 1967 is apparently an excerpt from one of Carlin's record albums, and it is another good example of how anodyne Carlin's humor was prior to the late-1960s. It's a parody of a newscast in which Carlin does all the voices, for broadcasters with names like Al Sleet (weatherman) and Biff Burns (sports). (It's also a good example of how comics recycle material, as this piece includes the same joke about ICBMs as in the previous Carson show clip.)

Here's another Carlin segment from the "Tonight Show," this time from 1972 and featuring a more familiar-looking George, who welcomes Johnny to L.A. after Carson's recent transfer of his show to the west coast from N.Y.C. The highlight of this clip is Carlin's "hair" poem, in which he lampoons square late-1960s/early-1970s attitudes about long hair (if you want to skip right to it is at about the 5:30 mark).

Carlin's most enduring contribution to American comedy (as some commentators--including Jerry Seinfeld--are noting in tribute) was probably his "Seven Words You Can't Say on Television" (although Seinfeld claims not to have ever liked it much). Nonetheless, it remains a groundbreaking bit, and this 1978 clip features some riffs on it.

Finally, I can't resist posting just one link to a Carlin tribute, as it's a good one written by Richard Zoglin, whose recent book "Comedy on the Edge: How Stand-Up in the 1970s Changed America" discusses Carlin's influence.

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