Review/Interview: George Carlin “It’s Bad For Ya”

George Carlin’s latest HBO special, "It’s Bad For Ya," debuted live Saturday night on HBO. For repeat viewings, it’s On Demand and also airing multiple times, including 12:10 a.m. Monday on HBO2 (consult the HBO master schedule here).

If your DVR acted like mine, it cut out early. Ah, the beauty of live TV and its incompatibility with DVR technology. Here are Carlin’s closing minutes, in case you missed them the first time around, as I did this morning. Note: Obviously NSFW due to language.

The hourplus essentially is the finished product of material I’d seen brand-new a year ago in Aspen at the HBO U.S. Comedy Arts Festival. Carlin refined the best parts and cut out the filler, going after the BS that we buy into as a culture and a nation, and how we’ve forgotten to question the BS or teach our children to, either. Religion and child-worship really come into his crosshairs. There’s a section in the middle about boring people and their boring conversations that doesn’t really fit, at least thematically, but it’s a stronger and certainly more accessible set than his previous special about death. And that’s even with Carlin talking at length about being old and his friends dying off in the first 10 minutes! Here, though, he turns it into a discussion about what to do with your dead friends and their contact info in your cell phone and email lists.

As I noted above, I had the chance to see Carlin workshop this material at its very beginning, when he read his thoughts from papers on the stage in Aspen. I also got a few minutes to talk with him after that initial set.

Was it a conscious decision to workshop instead of delivering prepared material, as you did when I saw you in Aspen for a free speech panel and award in 2002? "That had a single purpose and a focus and that was the topic," Carlin told me. "It wasn’t George Carlin’s show. It was me talking about having some freedom of speech and expression. This, obviously, is different. They asked me to do quote-unquote ‘My show.’ At whatever stage it was in, they didnt know when they asked me to be here. So it turns out they called me at the beginning of the cycle. It could as easily have been six months short of an HBO telecast and it would’ve been a more finished product. So it wasn’t a conscious decision to do anything except show up. And that’s what Woody Allen said is 90 percent of success, showing up."

Steven Wright had said the night before on national TV that he considered you the reason he got into stand-up comedy. How does it feel to be an influence on someone who has become a peculiar legend himself in comedy? "That’s one I’m proud of. The more frequent thing I hear is, when I came along and started having these HBO shows and I had these albums in the 70s, Richard Pryor and I were in, of a given age group. And then a lot of people came along because of cable and comedy clubs, so they were of a different generation. But occasionally I’ll hear someone say that they were, the last little bit of push they gave themselves to go ahead and do this, perhaps because they were, you know, 90 percent there in their minds, was they had seen my career, or they had seen Richard. They say this probably to more than one of us, so you can’t really wear it as a badge, but it’s true that some people have said that, ‘You were an inspiration for me to go into this field,’ and I always appreciate it. It’s an honor."

Did Wright say what it was specifically about your comedy that he admired? "No, not at the very first moment. What he liked ultimately was the continued output of material. Because I have kind of a comedic diarrhea, I’ve been able to really produce a lot of material. I’ve been very lucky to be able to do that."

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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2 thoughts on “Review/Interview: George Carlin “It’s Bad For Ya”

  1. He would’ve been a great after dinner speaker after all he said “at a formal dinner party, the person nearest death should always be seated closest to the bathroom”.
    I bet he loved getting comedy sponsorships from the corporate world (note the irony). I wonder how many comedy awards he received. It would’ve been awesome to book him as my after party comedian!

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