Monday, June 23, 2008


George Carlin was one of the formative influences of my youth, largely because, as with most formative influences, he happened to be there at the time. My father, the guy I get my sense of humor from (so blame him), had a pretty decent collection of comedy LPs back in the seventies. One of my earliest memories, in fact, is of standing frozen with horror in the bathtub listening to Tony Hendra's imitation of John Lennon's primal scream shrieks (as conceived by Michael O'Donoghue) as Dad played the first National Lampoon album, Radio Dinner, in the next room. As I got a little older, I used to sneak that record, along with the first few Cheech & Chong albums, out after school before the folks got home and giggle surreptitiously at all the drug and sex jokes I barely understood and smirk pseudo-knowingly at the political stuff I understood even less. (In fact, I listened to Radio Dinner again not long ago and I still don't quite get "Profiles in Chrome.") Later on came the Steve Martin albums that Mom dutifully bought him every Christmas, which were great gateway drugs for my nascent comic sensibilities - goofy and silly enough for an eight-year-old to appreciate, with a detatched, ironic undertow that gradually revealed the machinery underneath as I got older. And then there was that trio of records with that slightly crazed-looking longhair on the cover, contorting himself in wacky poses, looking out at me with a glazed, goofball gaze, and simulating sticking his middle finger deep into his nose shirtlessly seated in front of a blackboard. Those three releases - FM & AM (1972), Occupation: Foole (1973), and especially the one that came between them, Class Clown (1972) - were the first stand-up comedy records I ever heard (though I think we had a stray Bill Cosby collection floating around somewhere, too), and it's safe to say they warped my mind and got into my bloodstream with insensate speed.

The big hook, of course, was the final track on the second side of Class Clown, the bit advertised with a big red mock-disclaimer on the cover: "Warning: This Record Contains Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television. Hearing It Could Infect Your Mind, Curve Your Spine And Lose The War For The Allies." Again, I didn't entirely grasp the whole message - I looked in my atlas and couldn't figure out what country these "Allies" come from - but I knew there was a big, overhanging branch full of forbidden fruit in those grooves, in the form of naughty words, and what eight- or nine-year-old could resist that particular allure? Heck, the word "poop" still sent me into convulsive giggles. And I just knew this crazy guy was playing with much heavier artillery than that. So, one afternoon when there was no one else in the house, I carefully removed Class Clown from the wire rack underneath the Sears Silvertone (noting its position among the Simon & Garfunkel, Bob Lind and Neil Diamond records so I could return it without getting nabbed), set the volume knob just under "one," gingerly lowered it onto the turntable, dropped the stylus onto the appropriate groove, and, trembling slightly in dry-mouthed, transgressive glee cut with loads of apprehension, crouched down and put my ear to the woofer in the giant right speaker. I hear a slightly spacy preamble about words, thoughts being fluid, whatever, c'mon, man, get to the swearing before Mom gets home! Then, heading into the subject at last:

"There are four hundred thousand words in the English language... and there are seven of them you can't say on television. What a ratio that is! Three hundred and ninety three thousand, nine hundred and ninety three... to seven. They must reeeeallllly be bad. They'd have to be outRAGEous! To be separated from a group that large!"

Yes, yes, they are! Get to them already!

"Ya know the seven, don't you, that you can't say on television?"

Well, I'm pretty sure I know three or four of them... Okay, deep breath, here they come...

"Shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, and tits!"

YES!!! I exploded! Shivering with goose-bumptious joy! Shoulders shaking! Trying to hold back that geyser of giggles that started gushing out, for fear that one of the neighbors, or maybe the teacher who had driven by the house one night and busted me to my folks the next day for having the TV on in my room after ten watching a show I didn't really understand either but I could tell was pretty naughty itself called Monty Python's Flying Circus (something faintly ribald about its very name to my unformed mind), would happen by and overhear, after which I'd get sent to some institution for pre-teen miscreants where I'd have my mouth washed out with Irish Spring every hour on the hour and cane-whipped twice a day and wind up ceremonially immolating my 35-cent Alfred E. Neuman poster until I straightened up and flew right. It wasn't just the words themselves - well, no, it was the words themselves, as I could only say with authority what the first two of them actually meant and I had a vague but growing suspicion about the last one, but it was also the beautifully arranged, rhythmic manner of their speaking, so musical, the scat at the root of scatology. Such a wonderful, even joyous, sense of release there, unleashing that current of taboo syllables! And once the initial thrill wore off, a further realization - what's the big deal? I played it again immediately afterwards and soaked in the message, spelled out as clear as the day I had closed the rec-room curtains to hide from: "(There are) no bad words. Bad thoughts. Bad intentions. And words!"

Well...yeah! Right! Words are...just words! An epiphany! My first of the week! (My second was a day or two later, when I tried to put my newfound understanding into practice and got disabused of it in no uncertain terms by my dad, the very guy whose stash I'd purloined it from. He never hit me; he never had to. His look was enough to send me, cringing, to my room to hide for the rest of the day. The gap between idealism and reality was delineated then, and that right quick.)

I kept coming back to those records frequently after that, reveling in not just the "strong" language but the language itself, the absurdity of phrases we all take for granted ("'jumbo shrimp' - like 'military intelligence,' the words don't go together, man"), the torrents of meaningless cliches and non-sequiturs rushing by us in mainstream discourse (his game show, DJ and newsman parodies), a rich vein of observational humor that extended to the silly rules and rituals we grow up with (his epic reminiscence about growing up Irish Catholic on Class Clown being one of the best examples) and even to something as insignificant as the sound you make when you swallow.

He even led to my first comedy performance - I found a promotional 45 of one of his news routines (the one that kicks off 1975's An Evening with Wally Londo Featuring Bill Slaszo), memorized it, and stole it more or less in toto for my 4th grade talent show to huge response. I even somehow managed to pass Carlin's work off as my own, though in retrospect I'm sure my teachers had to have been a trifle dubious that a ten-year-old came up with lines like "Terrorists blow up Central America and leave a note."

From then on, Carlin remained a comedic eminence grise, even if I wound up drifting away from him in favor of his own influences (Lenny, Mort) and delving into the harder, rawer stuff proffered by both contemporaries (Pryor) and followers (Hicks). I even, sadly, found myself taking the man for granted. Oh, I happily parked in front of the set for his tri-annual-or-so live HBO specials, appreciated his thoughtful, articulate talk-show appearances and print interviews, and smiled at his periodic movie cameos (perhaps the only non-cringeworthy thing in Kevin Smith's Dogma - where he, appropriately, played a short-tempered, foul-mouthed cardinal - was his growling delivery of the line "All right - mistakes were made"). Heck, I think I even watched his Fox sitcom once. But for too long, Carlin seemed to be just there, a weathered landmark on the landscape, a usually amusing but hardly revolutionary figure given to more and more insignificant observations delivered in a querilous, burned-out singsong. (Rick Moranis' impression of him on SCTV captured - somewhat meanly, but not inaccurately - this wheel-spinning image of the man.)

Silly me, really. I barely noticed how, once he cleaned up his coke habit and started his comeback in the 80s, he gradually, even subtely, started interlacing his act with more barbed social commentary, to the point that, by the turn of the millenium, he resembled nothing so much as a hyper-curmudgeonly prophet of doom, stalking the stage clad in black and delivering more concentrated venom at a stretch than a busload full of Bill Hickseses. (His 1999 HBO special, You Are All Diseased, all but singed my eyebrows.) He mellowed slightly after that, but still kept the skeptic's faith up to the end - his "Modern Man" bit from a few years back showed that he lost none of his ability to process the vagaries of contemporary jargon into a dazzling crazy-quilt ("I'm a hot-wired, heat-seeking, warm-hearted cool customer; voice-activated and bio-degradable. I interface with my database; my database is in cyberspace; so I'm interactive, I'm hyperactive, and from time to time I'm radioactive. Behind the eight ball, ahead of the curve, ridin' the wave, dodgin' the bullet, pushin' the envelope..."), and his last special, It's Bad for Ya, though not quite as scorched-earth as before, ranks with some of his best work.

And now he's gone, at age 71. Sad, certainly, but not tragic - he leaves behind the most full-bodied testament to the art of stand-up; a varied, variable, but always forthright and honest path through the thickets of contemporary society, untempered by commercial considerations and the sickening bugaboos of timidity and political correctness. Comedy fans and comedy creators owe an immense debt to the man - he's certainly been an inspiration to me (I mean, Christ, look how long this fucking blog post has become!) and, if I feel sad right now, it's mostly because, as everything spirals ever faster around the drain, I have the strong feeling that he'd regret missing the show. Rest in shitting, pissing, fucking, cunting, cocksuckering, motherfucking, titting peace, good sir.

The obligatory YouTube embeds - first, the early but still-hilarious "Wonderful WINO" routine, as performed by a clean-shaven, short-haired Carlin on The Hollywood Palace in 1966 (hosted by Jimmy Durante!):

Next, Carlin doing his "God" routine on The Mike Douglas Show - interestingly, more or less the same routine that got SNL its very first outraged phone calls when he performed it on its debut a few months later, but presumably didn't raise many housewife's eyebrows when he did it in the middle of the day:

And finally, a more-or-less random ten minute chunk of You Are All Diseased. Safety glasses recommended:

* * * *

On the brighter side of things, I'm happy to announce that my pal and colleague Hayden Childs' entry in the oft-excellent 33-1/3 series of books, Shoot Out the Lights, is out now. It's great; you should get it. And hey, my name's in it, too! Thanks, buddy!

Saturday, May 31, 2008


Oh, lordy, am I depressed. I'm stuck in this go-nowhere, do-nothing area (geographical and otherwise) for the forseeable future with little money and precious few prospects of getting out of this miserable job I have that's causing me constant lower back pain along with the pre-existing agita. I'm creeping ever-closer to forty, my longtime deadline for making something of myself (should I add a "485 Days Until I Give Up" countdown clock to this blog? That'd be fun, right?). I'm seething with barely-suppressed rage all the fucking time anymore. And I'm going on four straight years of being pretty well and truly creatively blocked. Reading those Bill Murray divorce allegations didn't help (though, having already heard some unpleasant rumors and second-hand accounts that suggested the man isn't the all-around swellster us fans rather hoped he was didn't tarnish a hero irreparably the way the Woody Allen Incident did back in '92 - well, not irreparably, exactly; I wound up getting over it just in time for his movies to start to suck), nor did the message from the person I won some vintage humor mags from on eBay stating that she can't send the goods off right away because her 18-year-old daughter had just been fatally stabbed. And this fucking chest cold won't go away. So, I'm forced to exercise my nuclear option, the only thing that cheers me up regardless of circumstances, and I hope it may serve the same function for you in your own individual midnight hour.

Monday, May 19, 2008

"You can do euthanasia on a dog, but this old woman? I'd be sent to prison. Where's the justice in that?":

A great find here: the original pilot for Chris Morris' brilliant British satire series Brass Eye (here called Torque TV), containing about five minutes of material that never made it to the first broadcast episode, "Animals."

And hey, if you like that, why not try another twisted brainwrong from this one-off man mental, epsiode one of the peerless news parody The Day Today (also featuring the oft-great Steve Coogan and Patrick Marber, the guy who wrote Closer and Notes on a Scandal)?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Driven by the desire to be as trendy as possible, I've uploaded a set of tunes to (Originally, it was going to be a collection of my homemade mash-'em-ups and primitive comedy bits, but for some reason, they'd only allow me to upload one.) Like the world really cares, right? As if anybody's even checking this fucking never-was's fucking fucking blog to see if he's re-fucking-learned to write a fucking sentence, much less decided to fucking share a portion of his out-of-fucking-touch peaked-in-'8fucking8 musical taste with .000000000000000001% of the fucking fucking fucking entropy-ridden fucking planet?

So, hey, enjoy.

Thursday, January 17, 2008


(The following is the text for the "bit" [a little radio jargon there; consult your dictionary] I "performed" on this past evening's Wow & Flutter program. Probably more humorous spoken than read, and the very last entry was a desperation move in search of an ending written approximately thirty seconds before I went to air with it, but it's content, and that's what matters.)

In the interests of full disclosure, Wow & Flutter grudgingly presents "What's on TV Right Now."

The Ohhh! Channel's True Crime series continues with "Heartbeat, It's a Lovebeat in the Kneecaps with a Fungo Bat If You Don't Pay Your Vig," the story of the bloody reign of Tony DeFranco and the DeFranco Crime Family. That's followed by another edition of the popular game show "Who Wants a Piece of Me?"

On Cinemax, "The Pleasure Siphon" presents a unique two-parter combining recent political history with simulated intercourse. First up, what might have happened if Watergate co-consipirator John Dean were a lusty, busty co-ed in "Moist Ambition," then an S&M-flavored romp through the Ford administration with "Whip Ignatius Now."

Sucker, the kid's network for adults only, presents Skippy Keitel in Bad Crossing Guard.

On channel 7 right now, a repeat of "American Gladiolas," featuring another exciting evening of competition featuring a variety of muscle-bound, leotard-wearing athletes beating the crap out of one another with flowers.

Public Domain Movie Classics brings you part three of its series, "Sam Peckinpah: the Lost Years," spotlighting work the famed director did during his exile from Hollywood in the late 1970's. Tonight, an episode of his little-known Saturday-morning cartoon "Straw Puppies" and the commercial he directed for the then-new fast-food restaurant Wendy's, complete with the short-lived slogan suggested by the director, "Hot and Juicy...Like a Mexican Whore."

And finally, on the Paranoia Channel, there's someone - wait, just act natural, pretend like you're looking for your remote, god, no, he's looking right at you, oh, Jesus, he...

Thursday, January 10, 2008


As I continue my slow, gout-ridden-snail-like journey towards regaining my writerly mojo and having something to show for it, I found a whole list of bad (and rather outdated) song/book/movie/ movie-based-on-book-adapted-from-song titles to share with the (lower) class. Endure.

Don't Let Your Son Go Down On Me

I Saw Mommy Gassing Santa Claus

North Pole Terminus: The Santa Klaus Barbie Story

The Executioner's Free-Form Spoken Word Piece With Atonal Saxophone Accompaniment

E-Manuel: The Loves of a Computer-Generated Mexican

The Dogs of War Take Gainesburger Hill

The Hills Have Conjunctivitis

The Texas Chain Letter Massacre (
"This fall, postage... is due. ")

Crouching Tiger, Smitten Drag Queen

Consummating the Annulment

Superfly DOA

The Importance of Being Ernest, starring Jim Varney, with Gailard Sartain as Algernon "Vern" Moncrieff

Matrix Reassigned

...and God Prorated Woman

Al Czervik and Judge Smails Fistfight in Heaven

Leading With My Nose: The Michael Jackson Story

The Art of Massage by Moulty

Get in the Van by d. boon

The Rise to Prominence of the Dave Matthews Band, or When Cooler-Heads Prevail


Dave Day of the Monks has died. Damn. An on-air tribute will be in order next week. And perhaps we will have the answer to the question, "Does the bald spot from a tonsure grow back after death?" Through your tears, dig: