John Bloom's picture
06.25.2008 | Comments(29)

George, Lenny and Me

It pisses me off that the media is calling George Carlin the Seven Dirty Words Comic, as though his career ended in the 1970s. I’m honor-bound to defend him now because I once penned a critical piece for the San Francisco Chronicle alleging that Carlin seemed a little bit too fond of mere wordplay, unlike Lenny Bruce, who was all about the power of words but never about puns. Carlin was so incensed by my comments that he went to considerable lengths to find my home phone number and, when he finally found me, said, "I read the article and I want to explain to you what I do." I knew by then he was going to call, so I said, "George, I’m a big fan, you don’t have to do this." And he said, "No, we’re not gonna do the big fan bullshit," but he said it so breezily–he was really a shy and gentle man, despite his reputation–that I started laughing.

George Carlin

We then talked about New York, Texas, California, and several other chit-chat topics until I felt bold enough to say, "Okay, I know what got you. The reference to Lenny Bruce. I don’t have any right to say that. I didn’t know Lenny Bruce and you did." And then we talked about Lenny Bruce, and Carlin eventually said, "I just want your address really, so I can send you this new show of mine, I want you to see the kind of stuff I’m doing now." And he sent me an HBO special he’d just finished, the one where he spends the last twenty minutes talking about the environment, the one that nobody talks about today because it’s so anti-environmentalist.

That was not the only Carlin position that was profoundly conservative. He was no kneejerk liberal. He was a contrarian. He didn’t like pro forma liberal positions any more than pro forma conservative positions. He was also not above going for the cheap f-word laugh. And he was also, many times, I’m sorry, George, but it’s true, a little bit too fond of mere wordplay. But he was funnier than Lenny Bruce, whom many admired but few loved. People loved George Carlin. He was a teddy bear. I wish I’d talked to him about God that day, too, because he was under the mistaken impression that he was an atheist.

There’s Something To Be Said for the Distant Judaic God

jesus t-shirt

I’m all for inspiring youth ministries like the Children’s Christian Coalition in Southern California, but their "Christ Within Us All" T-shirt, designed to show an angry Jesus bursting out of your chest like the mutant in Alien, is just TOO INCREDIBLY CREEPY. Stop it! Or is it just me?

I’m With Stupid

Atheists are crowing about research by University of Ulster psychology professor Richard Lynn showing that the higher the IQ a person has, the less likely that person will believe in God.

the thinker

For example, only 7 percent of the members of the National Academy of Sciences believe in God, and only 3.3 percent of the members of the Royal Society. Primary school children believe in God at extremely high levels, but that belief declines as they get older. Of course, we didn’t really need an article in the journal Intelligence to tell us this. After Jesus predicted the destruction of the great cities that failed to notice him, he thanked God, "because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes." And then there was Paul, who did his own research into the matter and discovered "that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in his presence." Or, if I could just sum up here, it’s the stupid people, stupid.

The Other Madonna

alma manera

Alma Manera will star in the all-singing, all-dancing version of the Virgin Mary story, which sounds like something they’d do in Greenwich Village but is actually having its world premiere at the Paul VI Auditorium in Vatican City. Mary of Nazareth, A Story That Goes On has the full blessing of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State, even though the score was written by Stelvio Cipriani, whom we all remember best for his work on Piranha 2: The Spawning, not to mention Black Orgasm. The libretto is by Maria Pia Liotta, artistic director of a regional theater company in Reggio Calabria, and the title role is played by her daughter, a former Miss Italy contestant who lucked into the only female role in history that makes pregnancy cool.


dorsey | 06:44 am on 6/25/2008

Can't think of a more appropriate eulogy for George Carlin. Very well said, John.

Monster Truck Liturgy Guy | 09:01 am on 6/25/2008

I tuly believe that a hundred years from now, historians will regard George Carlin as an American Phillosopher, much the way we regard Samuel Langhorn Clemens -Mark Twain, now.

Joe-Allen Doty, Tulsa, OK | 07:07 am on 6/25/2008

It is interesting that filthy-mouthed John Bloom would write a eulogy for filthy-mouthed non-Believer George Carlin and his use of vulgar and obscene words.

I wouldn't be surprised if Bloom is a fan of Dan "Larry the Cable Guy" Whitney. Like Whitney, Bloom's altered-ego (pun intended) "Joe Bob Briggs" makes fun of Christians, too. When Whitney makes fun of people, especially Christians, he adds "Lord, I apologize for that" after he tells a hateful anti-Christ/anti-Christan joke. Whitney mocks his own parents who believe in Jesus in his stand-up routine.

While it is okay to politely poke fun at right-wing religious fanatics, I have seen Christians like Jim Wallis made fun of on this website.

I don't judge people; but, Jesus said, "By their fruits, you shall know them." I would ask Mr. Bloom, "How many people have you told about the love of Christ Jesus and they got saved because of your unconditional love for them?"

Every one of those 7 words which was used in George Carlin's stand-up comedy routine has been replaced by other equally originally obscene words. The "f" word has been replaced by "freaking" which has as its origin when used with the verb to "be" the action of sexual intercourse. Instead of the "s" word, "crap" has been commonly accepted. People claiming to be "Christian" use those words because "everybody else is using them."

As far as Carlin being an actor in TV sitcoms and children's programs and movies, he was great at that and nothing obscene was even in the scripts. In the TV sitcoms geared for mostly adults, he was able to use mature adult expressions without being vulgar or obscene.

Jason D | 07:20 am on 6/25/2008

Why can you not use "those words" and still be Christian? I'm not aware of any verse in the Bible that calls us to not use vulgar language (in fact, I've always personally been of the mindset that when Jesus was knocking over tables in the Temple, he was probably cursing a bit, even if it was just "darn it" or "aw shucks"...y'know, so that he could still keep his Christian status).

Perhaps ye should not judge so harshly and apply your own rules for Christianity on others - while I am sure He appreciates your assistance in clarifying His rules, He has done a pretty good job of putting those rules down already. I'm not sure that The Door and Mr. Bloom aren't following those as they do their ministry.

Jason D | 07:22 am on 6/25/2008

However, I need to clarify that if John Bloom IS a fan of Larry the Cable Guy...well, then he is seriously going to burn. Sorry John, but Leviticus is pretty specific...

MallProphet | 08:02 am on 6/25/2008

Git 'er done!!!!

JoshH | 12:29 pm on 6/25/2008

Well, yeah...
Anyone who's a fan of someone who SUCKS as much as Larry the Cable Guy *should* burn. I mean, he's a no-talent jackass who's really just a "reincarnation" of Jeff Foxworthy; the one good difference is that unlike Foxworthy, Larry the Cable Guy at least goes outside of a single canned verbal meme. Even so...he's STILL incredibly lame.

Nobody Important | 07:30 am on 6/25/2008

How did you get from someone genuinely funny like Carlin to Larry the Cable-Guy? I have no idea if Bloom likes Larry, but what a ridiculous generalization - I enjoy Carlin and can't stand Larry the Cable-Guy.

Oh, and your "I don't judge people" - you do a great imitation of judging.

60613 | 01:33 pm on 6/25/2008

Joe-Allen Doty - you evil hypocrite! Practically every sentence you wrote above was judgemental in some way. You are exactly the type of Christian Carlin made fun of... and the type of Christian that drives tens of thousands away from church.
Pig snot. That's what you are.

Cartoon Mohammed | 09:31 am on 6/26/2008

Did humans create profanity or did god? Image god in eternity past, talking to himself. “I hate the sound of the word f*ck. Flock is okay because my son will one day be a shepherd. Sh*t is also a word sound I don’t like. But shot is okay, since my chosen people, poor undereducated white southerners will one day like to shot their guns. Dick will be okay, but only has a proper name. Ass will be okay but only if it is referring to an animal. I just wrote the King James Version of my Bible, which I used the word piss twice. But now I don’t like that word, but it’s too late to change it late since I send the book to my editor. All the word sounds that offend me, I will make the human assign these words to refer to either sex or bodily functions”
“Oops, I will create other languages, and this will make things confusing. Negro will be okay in Spanish but profane in English. Thank Me it’s Saturday, I need to rest!”

Joe-Allen Doty, Tulsa, OK | 07:12 am on 6/25/2008

How does one get "pissed off" when no one can urinate off another person in the first place unless one is standing on the other person and urinating with one's urine no hitting the person?

SRebbe | 09:51 am on 6/25/2008

well, getting "pissed" here means upset, but in the UK means "drunk" and "piss off" means "go away" in a vulgar way, so go figure this glorious, messy language...

Nobody Important | 07:24 am on 6/25/2008

As a Carlin fan, the video on "Religion is BS" was both amusing and saddening. It's really a shame that he never got beyond all the BS man has brought into religion and found the truth of Christ.

John Platt | 07:45 am on 6/25/2008

George Carlin sometimes struck me as more of a spoken-word essayist than a stand-up comic. His routines were so highly rehearsed (especially in the word-play, which was a crucial part of what he was trying to do, since the meaning of words was so important to him) there was no room for improv or "real" emotion. But that's not a complaint -- I will forever miss his contrarian attitude. He taught us to always question the conventional wisdom. More people need to do that, no matter whose side is spouting the "wisdom" in the first place.

Andy | 01:23 pm on 6/25/2008

Carlin did see his work as art as well as entertainment. As much as some things he said made me squirm, I too will miss what he brought to the table. I disagree with John, though, on his criticism of Carlin as being too in love with his own wordplay (if I got it right). I think that was where he was the most brilliant and memorable, from his relatively recent "Alpha Male" essay/poem way back to his poem about hair: "I'm aware / Some despair / of my hair...." Brilliant! And still funny, 35 or so years later. As a preacher, I had to admire the care he took in crafting his use of the English language.

I also liked his most recent HBO special, "It's Bad For Ya". There was a line in it, unrepeatable really, that hit me at just the right time, when I was deeply hurting over something in my work, and it made me laugh harder than I had in years. There was redemption and healing in that. I also agree with what he said about how kids get too many awards, trophies and ribbons at things like spelling bees and karate tournaments just for showing up, whether they win or lose. I agree that it's bad for kids not to be allowed to know what it's like to truly lose, and that it builds character to lose and to have to find a way to deal with it.

All that said, what made me a bit sad was his love for religion-bashing. Not that it wasn't funny or true. It was usually funny, sometimes painfully so, and it was often true. What makes me sad is how lazy it is. I've said this before in previous comments, that Carlin was one of the more skilled practitioners of it, but it's still lazy. It's taking a cheap shot at too easy a target, a target that usually doesn't shoot back, at least not in a way that's equally funny. It also had a part in making religion-bashing fashionable in comedy; a way to get a quick, cheap laugh like using the F-bomb used to be.

LBJ's Love Child | 08:27 am on 6/25/2008

I would love to show that Carlin video to my church on Sunday, or at our Voters' Assembly (aka: Death by Potluck), or at least to our Evangelism Board (link to them going out next). Carlin presents perhaps the best synopsis of what Christianity ISN'T, but what people THINK it is... including those sitting in the pews every Sunday.

Perhaps Carlin could have never been a Christian, but I wish John had talked to him about Jesus, because he could have become a Christ follower.

Nobody Important | 08:36 am on 6/25/2008

I have posted the video to my discussion forum for the same reason - Carlin confused religion with Christ and I hope others can avoid the same mistake.

Andy | 08:43 am on 6/26/2008

"Death by Potluck"--now that's funny!

pilgrim | 08:48 am on 6/25/2008

I saw Carlin live in Reno 10 years ago. It wasn't funny - it was sad. I was never Carlin's biggest fan, but I thought he was clever enough to say something funny that evening. He didn't. I left the show very grieved and very burdened for a cynical aging man who spent his career denying the very Truth that he obviously was searching for.

beerbird | 08:52 am on 6/25/2008

What Carlin did amazingly well is observe the human personality. His observations on death are fantastic. I love to fit Carlinism's into sermons as often as I can. If nothing else he has observed sinful humans and not overpainted us as what we're not. Sometimes the law must pierce us before the gospel wakes us to God's love.

SRebbe | 09:52 am on 6/25/2008

put it up Monday on my Facebook page and will always think it... "[I] will miss George Carlin"

UNCLE KENNY | 01:39 pm on 6/25/2008

Love him or hate him, you have to respect George Carlin for being brave enough to hold that mirror up for us to look into. Maybe you just didn't like what you saw there, Joe-Allen Doty? I am going to miss his prophetic voice. Believer or not, people like him keep the church honest:

Announcer: "Ladies and Gentlemen, the driving force behind Catholicism WOW, Cardinal Glick."

Cardinal Glick: "Thank you, thank you, thank you. Now we all know how the majority and the media in this country view the Catholic church. They think of us as a passe, archaic institution. People find the Bible obtuse... even hokey. Now in an effort to disprove all that the church has appointed this year as a time of renewal... both of faith and of style. For example, the crucifix. While it has been a time honored symbol of our faith, Holy Mother Church has decided to retire this highly recognizable, yet wholly depressing image of our Lord crucified. Christ didn't come to Earth to give us the willies... He came to help us out. He was a booster. And it is with that take on our Lord in mind that we've come up with a new, more inspiring sigil. So it is with great pleasure that I present you with the first of many revamps the "Catholicism WOW. " campaign will unveil over the next year. I give you... The Buddy Christ. Now that's not the sanctioned term we're using for the symbol, just something we've been kicking around the office, but look at it. Doesn't it... pop? Buddy Christ..."

Buddy Jesus

Cardinal Glick: "Fill them pews, people, that's the key. Grab the little ones as well. Hook 'em while they're young."
Rufus: "Kind of like the tobacco industry?"
Cardinal Glick: "Christ, if only we had their numbers."

Des | 02:00 pm on 6/25/2008

@Uncle Kenny- One of my favorite scenes! Thanks for posting that(I LOVE 'Dogma'! awesome movie)

@John- Thanks for the great post about Mr. Carlin-very well written and very AWESOME. I've been a fan of Carlin's for a long time(since I was probably too young to listen to him :-D)and I knew there was more to him than met the eye.

Here's hoping he got his Two Minutes...

JoshH | 09:41 pm on 6/25/2008

Agreed. GREAT scene.

josie826 | 05:45 pm on 6/25/2008

I watched the HBO special where George Carlin spoke of the environment and our arrogance regarding same. I even heard Rush Limbaugh playing excerpts from this special on his program yesterday. Just like John Bloom says, its the 20 minutes no one wants to discuss or remember. I always liked George Carlin, cussin' and all. He was a very funny man and had a great way of looking at things. Anti-Christian or not, he said some pretty profound things that made a lot of sense. I'll miss him.

Estes | 08:57 am on 6/26/2008

Carlin was an occasional guest on a local Detroit f.m. station. In these interviews he frequently ridiculed Christians,made fun of the bible,and blasphemed Jesus Christ. I was a fan of his until I heard that.

SRebbe | 04:00 pm on 6/27/2008

ummm... except for the blaspheming Christ bit (ridiculing "xtians" and "interpretation" of the Bible), we do that here...

wasn't there something about the poor in spirit being promised the Kingdom of Heaven?

Anonymous | 11:56 am on 6/27/2008

What's odd is all the editorial cartoons showing Carlin at the Pearly Gates being welcomed by St Peter.

Droslovinia | 09:35 am on 6/30/2008

Who is the blasphemer: the one who deliberately challenges our perceptions while entertaining us or the one who claims to speak for God as a means to condemn others?

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.