When John McCain and Barack Obama became the clear front runners, no one thought anyone could pull off a decent impression of either guy. They were both bland, articulate politicians who could speak in clear, concise sentences and didn't sound like someone had stepped on their larynx with a golf cleat.
But in the zero hour, we were saved ... and not just by Sarah Palin.
These are the impressions that we're sorry to have to say goodbye to, even if we're glad the people they poke fun at may not be coming back.
For most, memories of George Carlin on television come from his many HBO specials starting from the 1970s and continuing up until the present day. For others, it was his appearance during the very first Saturday Night Live back in 1975. But, there was another George Carlin that many don't remember. That is the very young George Carlin from the 1960s.
Before the beard, and the long hair, and the swearing and his "the world is doomed" attitude, George Carlin was a traditional suit-and-tie stand-up comic. He began by teaming up with comedian Jack Burns in the late 1950s, then eventually went his own way. During that time he came up with a number of famous routines including "The Indian Sergeant," "The Hippy-Dippy Weatherman," and "Wonderful WINO." Many of these routines would be performed on shows like The Tonight Show (both the Jack Paar and Johnny Carson versions) and the Ed Sullivan Show.
After the jump you'll see two examples of his mid-60s television appearances.
1) I said that Carlin "passed away." Anyone who's listened to Carlin's comedy knows that he hated euphemisms like "he passed away." So, let me correct things right now: George didn't pass away or leave this earth. He died.
2) I really didn't convey how ingenious his comedy was. His observations of even the smallest of human foibles and his examinations of how we use the English language were always among the funniest routines he would do, even funnier than the ones about politics or religion or anything else that happened to chap his ass that year.
I knew about Carlin mostly through his albums, because I didn't have HBO (Occupation: Foole was the first Carlin album I ever heard, and I still think it's the best). But, thanks to HBO and YouTube, I can give you -- in no particular order -- my five favorite Carlin routines ... well, at least the ones that aired on TV:
As a tribute to the recently-deceased comedy legend, NBC will air the entire premiere episode of SNL this Saturday night. For those who have never seen the premiere before (it's on a DVD set of the complete first season), it'll be interesting to see how different the first episode is from the SNL format they know and hate-love today. I'll be DVRing it; will you?
To give you a taste, the opening monologue -- an early version of Carlin's classic "Baseball and Football" routine -- is after the jump.
The death of comedian George Carlin on Sunday was just as shocking -- and also attributed to a heart ailment -- but for Mr. Carlin there are many hours of his work available and relevant to rebroadcast. It'll give audiences a chance to re-appreciate his unique brand of comedy. In his long tenure with HBO, George starred in 14 comedy specials. Now, you'll be able to see a few of them one more time.
HBO is presenting a series of encore presentations, including his last concert, George Carlin: It's Bad for You, on Friday, June 27, at 9 o'clock (ET) on HBO (the main channel). The show debuted in March. But that's not all.
Carlin, of course, is most famous for the 1970s comedy routine "Seven Words You Can Never Say on TV." It was a bit which not only got radio stations that played it in trouble with the FCC, leading to landmark First Amendment and decency rulings by the Supreme Court, but he was also arrested in Milwaukee on indecency charges after doing the routine on stage there.
Now, I intend on using every one of Carlin's "dirty words" after the jump so consider yourself warned. Be prepared to wash your computer's mouth out with soap. It may look like a saint, but it swears like sailor.
In fact, Jay Leno was the one to try to call out Coulter on her caustic remarks on the "Jersey girls", the WTC widows who forced the creation of the 9/11 commission. He asked her why she had to use such extreme language when her point -- that Democrats trot out victims to keep people from arguing or objecting to their views -- would have been more effective if spoken rationally. Coulter just gave her canned remarks about liberals and Leno backed down. But at least I give him credit for asking. Too bad Carlin just decided to sit there. He must be getting soft in his old age.
[You can see some video of Coulter's entrance here, at least for today.]
I haven't watched The Tonight Show in a while. I much prefer David Letterman to Jay Leno anyway, but I find it a greater struggle to stay up past 11:35 PM to watch late night television. However, I wanted to watch The Tonight Show last night because both George Carlin, one of my favorite comedians, and Ann Coulter, who has been gathering much attention lately for her caustic commentary on the 9/11 widows, were going to be on the show. I thought there would be some major fireworks between Carlin and Coulter and would make for terrific television. I thought wrong.
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