Thank You, Good Night

After Rob Reiner directed "A Few Good Men," he was asked if he thought the country would now view him differently. Reiner replied, "Even if I do Hamlet, the reviews would read, 'Meathead does Shakespeare.'"

George Carlin, who died Sunday, will first and foremost be remembered for the "Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television," which is also unfortunate, for his career was more than a benchmark for FCC fines, Janet Jackson and "Nipplegate," and nostalgic debates over dirty words.

F. Scott Fitzgerald had it wrong when he said, "There are no second acts in America." Actually, there are nothing but second acts; still as Carlin's and Reiner's careers prove, America usually remembers the first ones best.

Carlin picked at the scabs on culture and politics for more than 40 years, usually before most of us knew we had them. He had contemporaries -- Bill Cosby, Robert Klein, Flip Wilson -- but none ever made television advertisers or censors as nervous. To his credit, though, while Carlin was fired and arrested for performances on stage, he was never jerked off TV or had an advertiser back out because of his material.

Carlin was prophetic and cranky (admittedly, for the last ten years on stage, mostly just cranky), but his comedy was never just about the shock. It was more about the logic than the laughs.

His point about that famous bit was this: of the more than 400,000 words in the English language, why did those seven "infect your soul, curve your spine, and keep the country from winning the war"?

He was the first host of "Saturday Night Live," was featured in 13 HBO Specials, had other signature bits like the Hippy Dippy Weatherman, and wrote books with titles like "When Will Jesus Bring The Pork Chops?" -- of which he said, "I like it because it offends all three big religions: the Muslims, the Jews, and the Christians. Plus the vegetarians. It's a four-shot" -- but those seven words are his signature, his "My Way." Maybe it started as a comedy bit; it's stand-up poetry now.

Were this television, you couldn't see the seven words at all (The FCC has increased the fines tenfold since Carlin first introduced the routine 30 years ago), but this is the Internet, so, while we still can, here they are (sort of): **c*, *i*s, *hi*, **n*, **c*****e*, m******u****, **t*.

Carlin once said, "Those who dance are considered insane by those who can't hear the music and there are nights when the wolves are silent and only the moon howls... I almost don't feel the way I do."

But we did



Next story loading loading..