Wednesday, June 25, 2008

George Carlin Tribute #2--The Grotesque Evasion

In yesterday's Carlin tribute, I posted about Carlin's use of words. In the video above, Carlin blasts "soft language." If you didn't believe that Carlin mastered the english language, look no further.

That the "poor" don't live in "slums" anymore, for example. Rather, the "economically disadvantaged occupy substandard housing in the inner cities."

Here's the kind of humor I mentioned in Monday's obit. You probably won't pee your pants watching that video, but it is funny in that it presents an awkward glimpse of the world we are so familiar with.

The fact that it is not always laugh-out-loud funny makes a lot of these kind of Carlin bits perfectly suited for the written medium. His books--really--are some of the best toilet reading in the world.

These bits on the norms of our lives--what could be more fundamental to society than our language?--are ingenious. In the video below, George applies the same skewed lens to another basic institution of American society: War.

A lot of these points have become less controversial over time--such as the masculine, penis-centric justification for war, or television's role in wartime)--but he presents them in a brilliant way. I love that he justifies his points with historical and cultural evidence. (That we fight every 20 years and can't succeed in anything else besides killing people, for example.)

Now, we need to be very careful about accepting a comedian's opinion on politics. We always have to remember that he's an entertainer, not a policymaker. But what makes these points so salient is exactly that he isn't a policymaker or a scholar.

Besides, politics have always been fair game for comedians.

Carlin admits that he's only looking for what's funny (or stupid) in war, and for that we should be grateful that someone with the observational and rhetorical skills as Carlin took it on.

Because it's only from looking at these creatively can we ever learn anything new. I would be happy to hear a politician's opinion on poetry-it would surely show me something I never saw before. And I am glad that Carlin took on politics, because being the master of words that he was, he bestowed on his audiences a fresh, profound, and often unsettling view of the entire world as we know it.