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I doubt that he'd find it amusing, but George Carlin might at least find it interesting to consider the possibility that the iconoclasm and nihilism of his brand of humor has succeeded so totally in transforming the culture as to make him generally unfunny.  For one thing, his stock in trade is observational humor, which the far less talented Jerry Seinfeld has pretty much beaten into the ground.  Second, where his profanity and scatology were at least somewhat daring twenty years ago, in a post-Clinton America where South Park is on TV, Eminem is the most popular pop singer and the Farrelly Brothers' movies are considered funny, there just is no such thing as public decency any more, and therefore, nothing to offend it.  What's more, there's something truly sad about an old man, which Mr. Carlin is these days, who swears so compulsively.  It is particularly noticeable when, as here, the language is written rather than spoken.  At a night club or in a stage act, surrounded by young people, maybe it's more appropriate.  But how does a 65 year old sit at a desk and type the infamous "seven words you can't say on television" quite this many times without feeling like he's making himself sound like a moron ?

Finally, Mr. Carlin seems not to realize that most of the once sacred cows he's attacking were actually led to the slaughter years ago.  Much of his ire is directed at Christianity and believers, but they have been so marginalized by modern society that it's like he's beating baby seals.  The shock value of making fun of God went out with the hula hoop and coonskin caps : for cripes sake, it's been at least a hundred years since Nietzsche declared God dead--give it up already.  I mean really, when's the last time you saw a person of faith portrayed in a positive light in any form of media ?  Attack humor is funniest when directed at the powerful or those with many defenders, but when aimed at the downtrodden and the thoroughly disregarded it is merely gratuitous.

It is a shame that Mr. Carlin, for whatever reason, but one assumes it has roots in his Catholic childhood, does not realize this, because when he goes after modern shibboleths, icons and causes, he really is funny, if only because political correctness has made so many of these things untouchable.  He phrases it differently in the book, but when, one morning on Imus, he said of Timothy McVeigh :

    I'd let him off.  After all, it's his first offense, and sometimes all these guys need is a firm talking
    to.

it captured both the idiocy of the kind of penal laxity that the Left so often espouses and, second, the way in which secular events like the Oklahoma City Bombing have been endowed with a kind of holy and inviolable significance.  Or when he says :

    Most people with low self esteem have earned it.

or

    People get all upset about torture, but when you get right down to it, it's really a pretty good way
    of finding out something a person doesn't want you to know.

or

    Message to the Denver Nuggets regarding Columbine High School: There's no reason to cancel a
    sporting event just because some kids kill each other.  Try to concentrate on basketball and leave the
    life-and-death "stuff" to someone else.

the lines aren't even all that funny, but the sentiments are so shocking, and true, that they catch you offguard, but then trigger that guilty moment of agreement.  Lines like these show that there's still plenty of mileage left in being irreverent, Mr. Carlin just has to recognize what it is that our culture reveres these days, not God or clean language, but victimhood, disabilities, odd sexual preferences, and the like.  It's, unfortunately, a New Age, and his humor needs to catch up.

(Reviewed:)

Grade: (C)

  

Websites:

Book-related and General Links:
    -George Carlin.com (Official Site)
    -BOOK SITE : Napalm and Silly Putty (Hyperion Books)
    -ROUTINE : Baseball vs. Football (George Carlin, Baseball Almanac)
    -ESSAY : George Carlin offers some meaningful insights  (Today's Senior Network)
    -EXCERPT : George Carlin On Religion (extracted from George Carlin's recent HBO special, "You Are All Diseased", recorded live at New York City's Beacon Theater on February 6, 1999)
    -INTERVIEW : George Carlin speaks up about what's wrong with Mickey Mouse, baby boomers, private property, and political activism. (Ricky Young, Mother Jones)
    -INTERVIEW : with George Carlin (Philip H. Farber, Paradigm Shift)
    -INTERVIEW : with George Carlin (Stephen Thompson , Onion AV Club)
    -INTERVIEW :  Standup for your blights: George Carlin talks about Littleton jokes, white-yuppie c***suckers and why he still loves his BMW (GEOFF EDGERS, Salon)
    -INTERVIEW : with George Carlin (Bill Tush, CNN)
    -INTERVIEW : Comedian of the Year (Steve Holtje)
    -PROFILE : George Carlin's Comedy Cloud : A Lifetime Of Edgy Laughs  (May 6, 2001, CBS)
    -PROFILE : George Carlin likes YOU; he just doesn't like US (Darren Rowe, Sydney Morning Herald)
    -PROFILE : A stand-up guy: George Carlin makes the most of a foolish world for his comedy (Tom Walter / Memphis Commercial Appeal)
    -PROFILE : A germ of truth? : George Carlin keeps chipping away (Nick A. Zaino III, Boston Phoenix)
    -PROFILE : GEORGE CARLIN LAUGHS AT FBI SCRUTINY : 1969 Appearance on Gleason Show Drew Hoover's Ire (Janon Fisher , APB)
    -ARCHIVES : carlin (Salon)
    -LINKS : George Carlin (Open Directory)
    -REVIEW : of Napalm and Silly Putty (David Middleton, January Magazine)
    -REVIEW : of Napalm and Silly Putty (MIKE ROSS, Edmonton Sun)
    -REVIEW : A Book Review and Appreciation (Mike Durrett, About.com)
    -REVIEW : of Brain Droppings (Ken Hoffman, Houston Chronicle)

FILMS :
    -FILMOGRAPHY : George Carlin (IMDB.com)
    -REVIEW : of George Carlin Double Feature:  Jammin' In New York and Doin' It Again (Chuck Dowling, Jacksonville Film Journal)

GENERAL :
    -Regulation of Indecent Speech : The Issue:  Does the First Amendment limit the government's ability to regulate four-letter words and other forms of indecent speech? (Exploring Constitutional Conflicts Homepage, UMKC)
    -ARTICLE : Barnicle's resignation was a must, say 2 veteran journalists (Kim Weidman,  08.20.98, Freedom Forum)

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