last words-george carlin with tony hendra

stand-up comedians are a special breed of storyteller. i appreciate that this one goes deeper than the other books that read like scripts to the man’s act, and i don’t think that it’s an accident that he waited until the very end to reveal what happened in the gutters (thanks, comic book guy). the co-writer was instrumental in creating the moth. coincidence? never.

here’s what he said best about “the craft”:

“They had a common bond that didn’t include or interest me. A competitiveness that I was very uncomfortable with. I wasn’t a compulsive entertainer. I could always think on my feet, but I never was quick around the kind of people who dominate a table. I was a product of ideas, not ad-libs. Later I came to realize the curiousness of choosing to be, and feeling, apart from people at the same time dying to be accepted. Longing to be accepted, to be asked in. But on my terms.” (108)

this is exactly why i don’t “slam”.

“But when you’re in front of an audience and you make them laugh at a new idea, you’re guiding their whole being for the moment. No one is ever more herself or himself than when they really laugh. Their defenses are down. It’s very Zen-like, that moment. They are completely open, completely themselves when that message hits the brain and the laugh begins. That’s when new ideas can be implanted. If a new idea slips in at that moment, it has a chance to grow. So for that moment, that tiny moment, it has a chance to grow. So for that moment, that tiny moment, I own them. That’s one of the things-maybe the most important-I seek by following this path: to have that power. To be able to say: stop in your tracks and consider this!
At the same time, I’ve had to surrender myself to that moment, and it’s a communion. A genuine, momentary communion. Which they wouldn’t have experienced without me. And I wouldn’t have experienced without them.” (250)

this is exactly why i work. point final.


3 thoughts on “last words-george carlin with tony hendra

  1. nobody beats the biz:

    “What I remember most about the ambience of Hollywood was this amazing /morning/ feeling. This promise of wide-open possibility. Something about the way the air smelled. And tasted good-and no, this is not a smog joke. There was a goldenness to the atmosphere. Even with all the traffic, a kind of quiet, a peace free of hustle and agitation. You felt safe but at the same time able to have different dreams every day. Or picture a hundred futures.” (77)

    “I was learning early a basic rule of television: repeat, repeat, repeat. Find variations, but stick to the successful format.” (114)

    “These days /Letterman/ is taped in the same place, the Ed Sullivan Theater. Once in a while while I’m in New York I purposely walk the Last Mile across the same streets and up to that stage door on 53rd. Forty years later I still reexperience all the fear and vomiting nervousness.” (128)

    “Acting had a different set of rewards. For one thing, an outsider longing to be on the inside is the same as the soloist longing to work in an ensemble. I equate them because I get great satisfaction in being a part of a proper-for me-community. I’m uncomfortable with various social groupings and clusterings. But when I’m in the right group, doing the right thing, I get as much satisfaction out of that as anyone who does it all the time. Maybe more.” (201)

    “There’s something in comedy called the Rule of Three. Three is the magic number. There are three ethnic types in the standard corny joke. History would’ve been very different with only Two Stooges. Repeating something three times is funny but four, five, eight, ten or sixteen times increasingly less so. I have a supplementary rule to go with the Rule of Three. Call it the Rule of Twenty-three. After a certain number of repetitions, whatever it is starts being funny again.” (215)

  2. cyclical abuse:

    “It gave me steel. It made me determined that she wouldn’t make something out of me. I would be the one that would make something out of me.” (19)

    “My mother wanted me to learn the piano. Like her, like Uncle George the admiral. And I did take lessons and play at recitals and shit, but I hated practicing. I had this dream one night not long ago. I’m trying to learn these piano pieces and I’ve very frustrated because I haven’t got time, and I’m trying ot learn. Then right there in the dream I say to myself, ‘Hey, I don’t even take piano lessons!’
    When I woke up I wrote that down. I stuck it up on the wall of the room where I work. Whenever I get goofy and my OCD kicks in, I look at it and say: ‘Mary, Mary! Get out of the room!’” (22)

    “I felt trapped by my commitment to things I wanted for Brenda and Kelly versus the things I wanted for myself. I never felt, ‘Gee, if I could only get away from this woman.’ I do remember thinking, ‘Gee, if I could just get her to stop drinking, some of this could begin to change.’ But that was selfish, because here I was full of pot and my own intake of alcohol.” (151)

    “I had a deferred adolescence. In my actual adolescence I was already thinking like an adult and making adult decisions. I was planning my career at eleven, getting engaged at fifteen, getting my mother if not out of my life certainly out of my heart in advance of any normal differentiation that a child goes through with his parents. And I joined the air force at seventeen.
    So my late childhood was postponed, or rather not experienced. Then, in 1967, as I’m entering my thirties, along comes a youth-oriented culture that attracts me for political reasons, but for other hidden reasons too.” (165)

    “The money didn’t help because she felt she was losing me. She didn’t have a husband. She had a man who was out there for everybody else, but was hardly ever there for her. Or Kelly. I don’t remember this-there’s a lot I don’t remember-but she said that once an interviewer asked me how old Kelly was, and I didn’t know.” (179)

    “Kelly often ended up being the arbitrator between us. She was the one who said what we never did: ‘Let’s save the marriage.’ At the Napili Kai, in the depths of this cocaine madness, she attempted an actual intervention. At then years old she was going to solve everything.” (180)

    “I’d always used Ritalin. My Ritalin habit didn’t make me crazy. I used to take half a Ritalin, or at most one and a half. (I had a doctor’s prescription for the stuff.) That was my speed during my so-called straight years: the groundwork was laid early on for my attraction to cocaine.” (178)

  3. american history x:

    “The lead cop-the one who asked Brenda if she jerked Jack off-later turned up as the guy in charge of investigating the Kennedy assassination, Will Fritz. He interrogated Oswald after his arrest. The obvious conclusion: Oswald had as much to do with the assassination as the three of us did with Motor Club robbery in Chicago.” (95)

    “The hauled Lenny away. Lenny had been busted so often that he always wore his coat during performances so he could leave immediately with the police. (He didn’t want to get separated from that coat; it was a nice piece of cashmere.) (106)

    “America’s manhood problem was typified by the teenage sexual slang we use about war. In Vietnam we didn’t ‘go all the way.’ We ‘pulled out.’ Very unmanly. When you fuck an entire people you have to keep fucking and fucking them-women and children too-till they’re all dead.” (246)

    “Plus I took the place of Ringo Starr (who did the first season). So that made me the anti-Pete Best.” (255)

    “We also tossed the narcissistic Gallicism ‘memoir’, which we decided was a linguistic mongrel of ‘me’ and ‘moi’.” (xiv)

    “Unlike many of his peers, he died uncorrupted, uncompromised and unbowed. He was urban not suburban, live not prerecorded, raw not precooked. His voice always vibrated with the energy of the Harlem streets from which he sprang, cutting through middle-class crap like a fine old ivory-handled straight razor. Because he did this alone, without fanfare, live, often in lowbrow locales like blue-collar clubs and Las Vegas, the proposition that George Carlin was a major artist may raise the brows, even the hackles, or the artist-ocracy. But that is what he became in his maturity: a unique creative force, equal parts actor, philosopher, satirist, poet-a real man of the people, not a multimillionaire media travesty of one. An artist whose designation ‘comedian’ describes his work as inadequately as ‘painter’ describes Francis Bacon or ‘guitarist’ describes B.B. King.” (x)

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