George Carlin: Rage Against the Light
by L. Brent Bozell III
This month, HBO is showing another George Carlin comedy special - he's been doing them for the network since 1977 - thereby allowing us to witness the further decline of what used to be an entertainer.
For quite a while, Carlin, who turns 62 this spring, was about as mainstream as it got, making a total of 29 appearances on Merv Griffin's program and another 22 with Mike Douglas. Even in the 1970s, when he habitually discoursed on the sociology of gutter language, he could be amusing and observant, if irreverent. For many years now, however, his act has consisted in large part of nasty, unfunny sociopolitical rants. On a 1991 "Arsenio Hall Show," for example, he mused, "I got an idea where we can put some low-cost housing...golf courses. [Golf is an] arrogant, elitist, racist game...I say it's time to reclaim that valuable land from the wealthy and turn it over to the homeless."
To be fair, exactly once during the HBO special Carlin sounded sensible, skewering "this superstitious nonsense that blames tobacco companies for kids who smoke...Kids don't smoke because a camel in sunglasses tells them to." But for the most part he was vile ("The very idea that you can set off a bomb in a marketplace and kill several hundred people is exciting and stimulating and I see it as a form of entertainment") or ignorant ("This entire country is completely full of s--t and always has been, from the Declaration of Independence to the Constitution to the Star-Spangled Banner") or just plain bizarre ("Airport security is a stupid idea, it's a waste of money, and it's only there for one reason: to make white people feel safe").
But those fundamentals of Western civilization, private property and religion, are what Carlin most despises and which inspire his greatest vituperation. This time out, he took it relatively easy on the free market, offering only a potshot at advertising and a swipe at businessmen, all of whom, he said, are "completely full of s--t. Just the worst kind of lowlife criminal
Easy, that is, relative to his show-closing spew on religious faith and believers. Only directly quoting from it can convey this former Catholic's breathtaking rage, bitterness, and ingratitude:
"When it comes to bulls--t...you have to stand in awe of the all-time champion of false promises and exaggerated claims: religion...Religion easily has the greatest bulls--t story ever told. Religion has actually convinced people that there's an invisible man living in the sky who watches everything you do...
"War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty...This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed. Results like these do not belong on the resume of a Supreme Being. This is the kind of s--t you'd expect from an office temp with a bad attitude...
"I firmly believe...that if there is a God, it has to be a man. No woman could or would f--k things up like this. If there is a God...I think most reasonable people might agree that he's at least incompetent and maybe, just maybe, doesn't give a s--t...
"I noticed that all the prayers I used to offer to God, and all the prayers I now offer to Joe Pesci [sic], are being answered at about the same fifty percent rate. Half the time I get what I want, half the time I don't...Same as the four-leaf clover and the horseshoe...same as the voodoo lady who tells you your fortune by squeezing the goat's testicles. It's all the same...so just pick your superstition, sit back, make a wish, and enjoy yourself...
"For those of you who look to the Bible for moral lessons and literary qualities, I might suggest a couple of other stories...'The Three Little Pigs'...'Little Red Riding Hood'...'Humpty Dumpty.'...All the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put Humpty Dumpty back together again. That's because there is no Humpty Dumpty, and there is no God...Never was."
The title of Carlin's special is "You Are All Diseased." And maybe he's right: maybe we are diseased. How else to explain that this man is the regular toast of the "Tonight Show"; that a major network pays him fortunes for this bile; and millions laugh at the "humor" of it all?
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