George Carlin passed away yesterday. This makes me sad. Carlin was a comedic and linguistic genius as well as a defender–or perhaps practitioner is a better word — of free speech. Probably best known for his bit on the seven dirty words, Carlin shocked, but did not need to shock, to be funny.
His mind was brilliantly attuned to the absurdities of life, and his gift for language and physical humor allowed him to reflect those absurdities back to us in a way that both challenged and tickled our sensibilities.
George Carlin touched me. Literally. In college I was with a group that brought him to Rutgers for a performance . Before the show began I was charged with guarding his dressing room. The door opened and I felt a tap on my shoulder.
“Yes Mr. Carlin”, I replied.
“Where’s the rest room?”
“Right down the hall to the left, Mr. Carlin.”
As “brush with greatness” stories go, perhaps this doesn’t make the top 10, but I was touched by his gentle manner and the way he called me buddy. I remember a lot of his material that night, but one of my favorite bits was his take on license plates:
- New Hampshire’s license plates say ‘Live Free … or DIE!!’ I don’t think I want to live in a state that actually mentions death right on their license plates. At the other end of the spectrum is Idaho’s license plates – they say ‘Famous Potatoes.’ I don’t know, I think that somewhere between ‘Famous Potatoes’ and ‘Live Free or Die’ the truth lies. And I think it’s closer to ‘Famous Potatoes.’
Goodbye Mr Carlin, and thanks for all the laughs.