George Carlin died yesterday of a heart attack at age 71. As strange as it may sound, I can credit him as having about as big an influence on me as any artist or actor. Even when I was nine years old and knew nothing of his comedy I was a big fan of his sitcom, to the point that when I got a dog I named it Miles because that was the name of Carlin's dog on the show. Later, when I was twelve or thirteen, I remember seeing one of his comedy specials on HBO and being both shocked and delighted at how honest and incisive he was. Just seeing that there were people like that out there that were willing to question and even ridicule the hypocrisies and inconsistencies of human behavior had a big affect on me then, and probably still figures in the way I think today. Here was a guy who was willing to challenge any social institution or tradition, from the nature and quirks of language all the way up to American hegemony and the existence of god. That's a hell of a lot of ground for a popular comedian to cover. My favorite thing about Carlin is that no one was safe from his mockery. Even if you were a fan that agreed with his general point of view, there would always be a point in his act where you too would be burned. That, to me, is the sign of a great satirist. It's been said before that comedy is the last great refuge of the noncomformist mind. I tend to agree-- and you won't find a better example of it than in the career of George Carlin.
Here he is doing a great little monologue from a couple of years back: