Donna and I were visiting my brother and my two nephews in Chicago. I wanted to get a picture or the Bob Newhart statue at Navy Pier (See Hi Bob). Over lunch at Bubba Gump's the older generation had to explain to the younger who Bob Newhart is. We stayed on the subject of comedy and comedians. The younger of the nephews (Alex age 16) is a big fan of political satire. We discussed his favorite comedians Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and Lewis Black. I was telling him about the comedians who inspired his favorites. Obviously the conversation could not go too far without mentioning George Carlin.
I told him that George Carlin is one of the greatest comedians in American history. I told him about George Carlin's comedy routine on the "Seven Dirty Words You Can Never Say on Television".
This routine appeared on his Class Clown album. George Carlin was arrested on July 21, 1972 at Milwaukee's Summerfest and charged with violating obscenity laws after performing this routine. The case was dismissed in December of that year; the judge declared that the language was indecent, but Carlin had the freedom to say it as long as he caused no disturbance. I told my nephew that the classic routine is an excellent example of the power of comedy. Radio station WBAI (a Pacifica Radio Station in New York City) played similar routine, "Filthy Words," from George Carlin's Occupation: Foole album over the air. The broadcast was then brought to the attention of the FCC. Pacifica received a citation from the FCC, which sought to fine Pacifica for allegedly violating FCC regulations which prohibited broadcasting "obscene" material. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the FCC action, by a vote of 5 to 4, ruling that the routine was "indecent but not obscene," and the FCC had authority to prohibit such broadcasts during hours when children were likely to be among the audience. FCC v. Pacifica Foundation , 438 U.S. 726 (1978).
The following morning I was shocked to learn that George Carlin had died. Before leaving Chicago I stopped by a Borders and bought the younger Figueroa a CD of George Carlin's Class Clown and Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics. Since then we have had a couple of conversations on George Carlin and he even bought a third CD. We talked about Carlin's influence on his favorite comedians, his love of words, his way of pointing out politicians and the news media manipulates the language to change their impact. I was so touched that my young nephew is now enjoying one of my favorite comedians.
Mr. Carlin’s body of work will still be relevant to a new generation. A true testament to his talents. Whenever we loose someone of prominence there are those who will ask, "Why?" I think it is because the time has come for us to activate our own Inner-Carlin. We examine our vocabulary, analyze what we hear from our leaders, point out the absurdities in life and not settle for being main stream.
To quote George Carlin, "I think it's the duty of the comedian to find out where the line is drawn and cross it deliberately".
Good Night Mr. Carlin and good luck.