R.I.P., Class Clown

George CarlinOne of my earliest pop culture memories, from when I first started to become cognizant of the world past my back yard, was listening to my mom’s George Carlin albums (Class Clown and AM & FM were, I believe, the first two I was exposed to). I knew they were a bit naughty, and later I would come to realize the meaning of words like iconoclastic and irreverant, but to a kid of about eight or nine* all I really grasped was that they were funny.

Now Carlin’s dead, at the age of 71. Ignoring for a moment the idea that when the icons of your youth start to die off, you get a serious dose of perspective on your own impending mortality, this is a loss for the genre and the culture. Yes, if you asked anyone under about 35 to list their favorite comedians, he probably wouldn’t be on a lot of lists. And, while he was still performing and still drawing crowds, his most influential days were behind him.

Yet, he’s a giant of comedy. A comedic genius. Mount Rushmore of Comedy stuff. It’s easy to pigeonhole him as just a guy who swore a lot on stage (something that barely fazes us now), but to the end, Carlin asked us to re-examine why we thought the way we did about things and made us laugh during the examination.

He was his own man, and to the kid who became a grownup (and whose sardonic outlook on life was no doubt shaped by those 33 1/3 vinyl discs) he’ll always be an icon.

*Yes, my mom was either a bit progressive or neglectful, depending on your point of view. In 1973, maybe letting your eight-year-old listen to George Carlin wouldn’t get you Parent of the Year, but I seem to have turned out all right, yeah? ;)

One Response to “R.I.P., Class Clown”

  1. nate sf/ca Says:

    Speaking to my brother earlier, he’s the only person from the “entertainment” world that has or would make us pause and be sad for the loss. As stated, his prime was behind him and he certainly left his own mark, walking to the beat of his own drum.

    My brother and I are both in our early/mid 20s, and he’s our top comedian by far. It’s a shame that popular comics these days are unimaginative tools such as Dane Cook. Bleh.