So Long, Funnyman

Posted in Baseball, Free Expression, Radio, The World Of Entertainment at 3:30 am by

There are some Two-way words, like it’s okay for Curt Gowdy to say ‘Roberto Clemente has two balls on him.’ But he can’t say, ‘I think he hurt his balls on that play Tony, don’t you? He’s holding them. He must have hurt them by God.’

– “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television”

In baseball the object is to go home! And to be safe! – I hope I’ll be safe at home.

– “Baseball – Football”

George Carlin, R.I.P.

Update: Was about to add a partial score joke, but I see Salon’s King Kaufman is also still awake.

24 responses to “So Long, Funnyman”

  1. Don says:

    To say that I imitated “Wonderful WINO,” Carlin’s parody of Drake-era AM Radio broadcasting throughout most of my time on college radio is an understatement. Nothing spells junior high to me more clearly than bringing over an extra George Carlin LP to a friend’s house inside a much lamer Robin Williams record because some parents…

  2. Ben Schwartz says:

    The media focus on “controversial” George Carlin is pretty funny in itself, unless you feel he was REALLY unfair to football in his baseball v. football routine … or if you were a fan of hippy dippy weathermen or that “jumbo shrimp” salesman took a beating when he pointed out their product’s funny name. I know his 7 words were a big deal to some, but it was a furor that lasted less than a week. Anyway, as you said, so long, funnyman.

  3. kt says:

    “what does cocaine make you feel like? it makes you feel like doing more cocaine.”

  4. Don says:

    Ben, how is Carlin less controversial then Lenny Bruce? Carlin’s obscenity arrest made it to the supreme court, right? What intense threshold do you have that makes someone controversial? death? Sure he tamed way the heck down by the late 1970s, something Lenny didn’t get the chance to do, but I remember quite clearly parents NOT letting us watch his material on TV for fear the material would be too counter culture.

  5. Alex G. says:

    Is there a reason my comments aren’t being posted in this thread?

  6. GC says:

    it depends — there’s about 30,000 comments in the moderation queue and whether or not yours is in there depends on how often you’ve plugged another web site or used the word “mortgage”

  7. Alex G. says:

    It was actually about the Carlin post. Maybe there wasn’t enough Cubs-related content? Sorry about that. I’ll try harder next time.

  8. Rog says:

    Alex G! Post of the year!

    Benjamin has to be contrarian even when he’s contradicting himself. It’s in his contract.

  9. Ben Schwartz says:

    Don: I don’t think it went to the Supreme Court, I think it went to a Milwaukee judge who threw it out within a week. I thought Carlin was trying to regain his Last Angry Man title with his last several HBO shows, but getting pissed off at anorexic women for being narcissistic didn’t seem to bring the cops out. As for controversial, Howard Stern has had more gov’t censorship thrown his way over the years than Lenny or Carlin combined, if that’s your standard. I think Colbert’s face-to-face lambasting of Bush really seemed to unnerve people in power more than Carlin. Did Carlin ever cause as big a stir as even Dice Clay in his prime? Let me say again, this isn’t about Carlin being funny — I thought him hilarious — it’s the notion of him as controversial because CNN has one 38-year-old picture of him getting busted in Milwaukee.

    Alex — the Cubs have the day off today, but I don’t. I’ll wrap up the sweep and the Cards for you, at length, sometime soon. Thanks for reminding me.

  10. Ben Schwartz says:

    Don is right — it eventually went to the Supreme Court when a NYC radio station played it and they ruled that the Gov’t has the right to determine indecency on the Federally patrolled airwaves. Carlin was busted for it in 1972 for disturbing the peace and it was thrown out within days.

  11. Rog says:

    The problem with comparing all of these comics in different time periods is that it is kind of apples v. oranges. If Howard Stern had done his act in the 1950’s he would’ve been shot to death by a firing squad. Carlin’s most ‘outrageous’ stuff seems dated and tame in 2008 but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t controversial back then. Y’all need some perspective. And saying that comic a pissed off more people in power than comic b is a puerile argument, the irony being that today’s shock jocks and other bottom-feeders probably wouldn’t have had a career if some guy back in the day hadn’t taken a censorship battle to the Supreme Court and pushed some buttons.

  12. Jason Cohen says:

    Hell, one of my comments didn’t make it. I tried to put a link to the Times obit up instead of revising the post again.

    I think as a countercultural figure in the mainstream Carlin was very edgy for the time. Not just the 7 words but the drugs, talking about masturbation, etc. And watching his last interview with Olbermann where he refers to the bible as “science fiction,” still edgy now. The current FCC isn’t much better than the one from 1972, they just don’t get to regulate cable is all.

  13. GC says:

    it’s the links. moderation queue grabs ’em. sorry about this, folks. Before the filters were installed, I spent crazy amounts of time dealing with comment spam.

  14. Alex G. says:

    No sweat. My post did have a URL, so that probably was the issue. Sorry for the crankiness. As an act of contrition…um..go Cubbies?

  15. GC says:

    no apology necessary, Alex. I’m sorry to have to impose such goofy restrictions. I mean, I could go into the moderated comments and try and find what you wrote,but the that was thousands of messages ago. Those filters are the thin blue line between CSTB halfway functioning and the blog being engulfed in TOTAL CHAOS.

    thank you

  16. Ben Schwartz says:

    Jason: Christopher Hitchens had the biggest commercial success of his life, and of the year, with “God is Not Great.” Carlin is so mainstream even Mike Barnicle stole from him. Carlin’s jokes about drugs, in the Cheech and Chong era, no less, never got caught him any real flack.

    Look, all I’m saying is that eulogizing him as “controversial” short changes his body of work by like 90%. Of course he offended some people, so has Jay Leno at times. He had a huge impact on stand-up and writing comedy as smart as he did. He may have milked his edgy reputation, the way Hitchens does (Hitchens just came out in favor of WW II this week), but really, there’s not much conflict in his career.

    And Rog, I appreciate your use of “irony,” “puerile,” and “y’all” (which keeps it so real) in the same post — but I wasn’t comparing apples and oranges. Carlin just didn’t generate that much controversial heat — no one who appears on the TONIGHT show 130 times does. Bill Hicks was still censored by Letterman into the 90s (?), and unlike Carlin, was basically marginalized by MSM. and that’s what happens when you really are controversial, you disappear from MSM.

    Also, the idea that only comedians break ground for other comedians on free speech is endlessly repeated and ignorant — while Lenny was on trial, Nabokov’s LOLITA, Ginsberg’s HOWL, and the Berkeley Free Speech movement were all going through the courts. The whole era was reevaluating free speech. Lenny just made a career out of it, where other people, Carlin included, moved on.

  17. Ben Schwartz says:

    Excuse me — Hitchens had ONE OF the biggest successes to the year, and even got on Tim Russert’s not that edgy show to discuss it at length. Maybe Carlin’s legacy is that he mainstreamed “edgy” for a generation of Bill Mahers.


  18. Jason Cohen says:


    I guess I’m not sure what you’re ultimately trying to say, that the intelligentsia shouldn’t give Carlin too much credit as a revolutionary, or that the fact he’s being given that credit shows just how staid the MSM remains?

    Of course, as with all the recently deceased, we temporarily forget their flaws, or long body of inferior work. The post “Bill and Ted” Carlin may have remained fiercely political, but he was neither as funny nor as edgy (and certainly the fact that Bill Hicks existed by then – and Howard and Dice for that matter – was part of that). After all, Barnicle ripped off “When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops,” not “Toledo Window Box.”

  19. ben schwartz says:

    I’m saying that his career was a lot bigger than saying “fuck” in Milwaukee 36 years ago. As for contradicting one’s self, why do you call him a revolutionary while maintaing that the fcc he challenged is basically as bad as 1972? Don’s mention of WINO is closer to why I like him — he did long form pieces that were dead-on studies in behavior and language that are hilariously performed whether anyone’s mom gets pissed off or not. You can walk into a church tomorrow and say “fuck” and someone will be offended. If you can reconceive language as he did, and what we expect of a comic, you’ve accomplished a lot more as an artist. And can someone please explain why the word “contoversial” in and of itself is a compliment? Because that’s how it’s being used.

  20. Jason Cohen says:

    failed revolutionary? I guess, in any case, the Pacifica broadcasting company was more radical than Carlin.

    Ha-ha, even ESPNews just led with the damn arrest before moving on to football-baseball. They have the good old footage from SNL though.

  21. Ben Schwartz says:

    He was a revolutionary in turning language itself into comedy and in who he satirized, but if he was supposed to rile people and throw out ideas that were going to cause a stir, he’s a failure next to “controversial” icons like Don Imus. I can’t see a Seinfeld without there being a Carlin first, but I can definitely see Imus, Stern, Hicks, Dice, and most radio goons suspended for one racist or sexual crossing of the lines happening without Carlin. Again, if you want to see something that feels daring, I suggest Colbert staring down George Bush from the WPCD two years ago. When Carlin got to host SNL’s first episode, he did it with baseball v. football. 7-Words was always a nightclub act anyway. That is, he never planned to challenge a network with it, it was always about them, not for them. Elvis Costello playing “radio, radio” on SNL was more anti-network than Carlin.

  22. Jason Cohen says:

    Y’know, I wasn’t a huge fan of the correspondent’s routine. Not that it wasn’t great (or ballsy, certainly) but at the time I felt like he was breaking character.

    But I’m really, really hoping Bush goes on the show next year (if not the Daily Show).

  23. Rog says:

    Benjamin, I really don’t know why I bother with obvious racists like you. I guess I just wish you weren’t even allowed on here. Just go back to posting your useless Cubs items or, better yet, why don’t you get your own blog?

  24. Timothy Cook says:


    The above post, #23, is a disappointment because you had been doing so well. The name calling (‘racist’? Huh?), and the part about excluding people you don’t like, well, let’s just say you should view this as an opportunity for self-improvement.

    Post #11 about the context of the era was a legitimate contribution — and actually moved the conversation forward, and its clarity provides hope if not some evidence that you aren’t completely full of shit. However, in light of the above, I will be forced to withhold today’s gold star that you were so tantalizingly close to earning. Remember, 5 gold stars earned and then you can go bat shit nuts all you like (as long as I don’t have to read it or about it).


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