George Carlin — who received The Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for American Humor mere days before he died at the age of 71 on June 22, 2008 — grew up on West 121st Street in the Morningside Heights neighborhood on New York City’s Upper Manhattan.
Comedian Kevin Bartini has been gathering thousands of petition signatures both in person and online to rename the 500 block of West 121st Street — between Amsterdam Avenue and Broadway — in Carlin’s honor. Bartini’s petition will be heard tonight by a committee of the neighborhood’s Manhattan Community Board #9, Chatting with him yesterday about the meeting, Bartini told The Comic’s Comic: “I don’t know how it’s going to work. This is my first one. It would be nice to have some friendly people in there.”
So he also wrote this last night:
Tomorrow (Thursday, Oct 6) I will be addressing the community board of district 9 in person! I will be speaking to the Uniform Services and Transportation Committee. It will be based on this committees recommendation that the entire community board will vote.
I will be asking them to approve the motion to co name the 500 block of West 121 Street for George Carlin.
If you are a supporter in NYC and can come out please come. It will be great to have some supporters in the room.
Here is the info:
Uniform Services & Transportation Committee Meeting will be held @ The Board #9 Office – 18 Old Broadway, at 6:30P.M.
If you take any west side train to 125th Street it is only a short walk.
Please come support the cause!
If the committee approves the petition, it still has to go before the full board. WNYC reported that the board’s chairman, Reverend Georgiette Morgan-Thomas, wants “proof that Carlin has made significant contributions to the neighborhood before giving the proposal the green light.”
Early on in his career, Carlin talked up Morningside Heights during an appearance on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Roll that clip, would you please?
That’s a TV-friendly version of a bit from his fourth album, Occupation: Foole, the same 1973 album that also featured his famous “Filthy Words” routine that prompted a U.S. Supreme Court ruling about FCC broadcasting of indecent language outside of late-night hours. On the track “White Harlem,” Carlin explores his childhood in the neighborhood. Roll it.
In 2010, the New York Public Library hosted a tribute to Carlin, hosted by Whoopi Goldberg and featuring speeches by Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara — with their children Amy and Ben Stiller — former Harper’s Magazine editor Lewis Lapham, filmmaker Kevin Smith, comedian Dylan Brody, George’s biographer Tony Hendra, George’s daughter Kelly Carlin, his brother Patrick, constitutional lawyer Floyd Abrams, and comedian Louis CK. You may have seen a clip of Louis CK from that tribute show up recently on YouTube, but you can relive that entire tribute here:
And even after his passing, Carlin knew six years ago what the people now rallying and creating the Occupy Wall Street movement are saying — that “The American Dream” was slipping away to white-collar criminals who own this place. “It’s big…club, and you ain’t in it.” This is from his 2005 HBO special, Life is Worth Losing. Roll it.
If you can lend a hand — either by signing a petition or showing your support in person at Community Board #9’s meetings, please do so.
UPDATED (Oct. 10, 2011): Following last week’s meeting, Bartini told me that he was outnumbered by Catholic protestors against the naming of the block for Carlin. And the Catholics pushed their agenda Monday on both CBS and ABC in New York City, with both stations airing the pastor’s complaints during the 6 o’clock news. This is a link to the WCBS-TV report on Carlin’s street naming. The WABC-TV report has video.
The full board has yet to hear the petition, so I’ll be sure to update you on the whens, wheres and whatnots.