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George Carlin: Cynical Philosopher

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Cliff Marshall

on 7 May 2013

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Transcript of George Carlin: Cynical Philosopher

George Carlin: Life of a Comedic Philosopher Organic Intellectual Philosophy Individualist Philosophy As a cynical philosopher, George Carlin was able to bring to light some of the darkest subjects in society. This ability to derive comedy from the tragic is illustrated in Sigmund Freud's 1927 essay "Humour" when he mentions why we find pleasure in dark or "gallows" humor. So, What's so Funny? Carlin's political philosophy as an individualist was evident in his advocacy of the interest of the individual taking precedence over the state (or any social group for that matter).

“I don't like ass kissers, flag wavers or team players. I like people who buck the system. Individualists,” Carlin said in his book "When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops?" “I often warn people: "Somewhere along the way, someone is going to tell you, 'There is no "I" in team.' What you should tell them is, 'Maybe not. But there is an "I" in independence, individuality and integrity.'" Here Carlin speaks on the irony of the American Dream saying
"you have to be asleep to believe it." Carlin appeared in several Hollywood movies including "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure" (1990), "The Prince of Tides" (1991) and "Jersey Girl" (2004).
He was opposed to organized religion. Here he ironically plays a priest unveiling of Buddy Christ from the film "Dogma" (1999) where he mocks his childhood religion Here he talks about "real" drugs
and society's double standard on the comedy album "FM & AM."

Carlin, a self-admitted drug user tested comedic boundaries
by discussing the horrors
(and benefits) of drug use.

The album won the 1972 Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album. Carlin's early television appearance on the on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in1966. His "Hippy Dippy Weatherman" bit was a popular ongoing act. Here Carlin speaks about parental language in 1976 on the comedy & variety television show"Tony Orlando and Dawn"

In addition to honing his act in beatnik nightclubs, he began appearing on more and more
variety and talk shows throughout the late 1960's and 70's. Here he pokes fun at common words and phrases we use from George Carlin On Location 1977. Carlin loved to analyze the American use (and misuse) of the English language. Carlin urges his audience to question everything as we know it in society: a warning that we are being deceived by our government and ourselves. Carlin's socioeconomic theory of America challenging the common sense of our society The ancient Greeks helped to lay the foundations of Western philosophy - what we’ve done with it is questionable. Humorist George Carlin would be one to question such a thing. His role as a cynical philosopher can be traced through his life as an intellectual and individualist.

In a sense, every one of us is a philosopher. We each have our unique contribution to the ideas of society. Perhaps the best example of the modern philosopher is the stand-up comedian – a person who, albeit for entertainment purposes, shares their ideas of the quirks of life in front of an audience just as Socrates and Plato discussed with their students the fundamental problems concerning truth, values, logic, reality and language.

The popularity of radio and television coincided with the rise of post-World War comedians who influenced a young George Carlin, an Irish Catholic boy from Manhattan. His career followed beside many other fellow comedians with this philosophical role, but he broke the mold at some point leaving behind conventional for anti-establishment comedic material. He became quite cynical – a skeptic of society laced jaded negativity – but still able to exhibit his ideas humorously as an intellectual and individualist. This break from the norm set him
apart from his contemporaries and influenced a new breed of comic. Introduction Although Carlin had his own TV show where he played a New York cab driver, he said in his book "Last Words" he was "frustrated that it had taken me away from my true work."
However, the show provided an outlet for the working class point of view on government and society. click the arrows below to navigate the presentation Carlin and fellow comedians share
their thoughts on the Seven Dirty
Words from "History of the Joke" on the History Channel. Controversy of the "Seven Dirty Words" routine Carlin talks about coming up with the list of dirty words you can't say on radio & TV Carlin had his hands in all media: radio, television, stage, film, record albums and print. He performed on thousands of stages, appeared on television hundreds of times (including his own sit-com), produced multiple comedy albums, appeared in sixteen films and published five books. Carlin describes himself as a modern man in this example of one of his long and rhythmic rants. Carlins assurance to those worried about the environment: "the planet is fine." He took opposition to seemingly positive common societal goals. Carlin and Jack Burns began a comedy team before moving to California to hone their act in beatnik coffeehouses. In the 1960’s, Carlin began appearing on television variety shows notably, “The Ed Sullivan Show” and “The Tonight Show,” where he performed his famous routines such as the stupid disc jockey and the hippie-dippie weatherman. Carlin appeared as a celebrity mystery guest on the game show "What's My Line" in 1969, a sign his name was becoming well known in popular culture. He was raised with his brother by his mother in Manhattan where attended a Roman Catholic parish school. At the age of 15 he involuntarily left high school and joined the Air Force as a radar technician where he began working as a disc jockey at a radio station. Bibliography Altschuler, Glenn C., and Patrick M. Burns. "Snarlin’ Carlin: The Odyssey of a Libertarian." Studies in American Humor 3.20 (2009): 42-57. Print.

Amarasingam, Amarnath. "Laughter the Best Medicine: Muslim Comedians and Social Criticism in Post-9/11 America." Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs 30.4 (2010):
466-67. Print.

Carlin, George. Napalm & Silly Putty. New York: Hyperion, 2001. Print.

Carlin, George. When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops? New York: Hyperion, 2004. Print.

Freud, Sigmund. "Humor." International Journal of Psycho-Analysis 9 (1928):
1-6. Print.

Gramsci, Antonio, and Joseph A. Buttigieg. Prison Notebooks. New York: Columbia UP, 1992. 5. Print. Master of Words We use words to describe our reality. Carlin’s act was not so visual and relied heavily on the oration of his words. He understood how language inquires into the nature of meaning and how the words we use can be misleading, even contradictory. He loved to pick apart the English language and was able to explain the absurdity of it in laymen’s terms. Also, he was able to play on words by forming long verbal lists, or rants, with a poetic rhythm. He is well known for his insightful “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television” routine first featured on his 1972 album "Class Clown" in which he expresses amazement in the taboo-ness of certain words regardless of context. Carlin produced a list of words that were not allowed to be spoken on television. The words - balls, cocksucker, cunt, fuck, motherfucker, piss, shit, tits - were inspired by comedian Lenny Bruce (who was arrested for using them on stage.)
When the "Filthy Words" monologue was played on a New York radio station one afternoon in 1973, a man who was listening to the station with his 15 year old son filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission claiming it was inappropriate for children. The decision of the resulting case formally established indecency regulation in American broadcasting and established the safe-harbor provision that gives the right to broadcast indecent - but not obscene - material at nighttime, when children are presumed to be asleep. George Carlin can be considered what Italian writer and philosopher Antonio Gramsci calls an “organic individualist.” His alienation from popular economic, social and political ideologies aligned him with the counter-culture of the late 1960’s. He became a spokesperson for a new group of Americans opposed to mainstream cultural mores of the period.

According to author Amarnath Amarasingam, “traditional intellectuals are those who consider themselves to be withdrawn from the mundane complexity of social life and functioning outside of the influence of the dominant social group … Organic intellectuals, on the other hand, arise within a new group (p. 466-7).” And this new group of individuals is afforded with what Gamsci calls “homogeneity and awareness of its own function not only in the economic but the social and political fields (p. 5).” The counter cultural movement, which Carlin became a figurehead of, was a reaction to tensions surrounding the war in Vietnam, race relation, sexual mores, women's rights, traditional authority, and the materialism of the American Dream. “Organic individuals must voice the interests of the group,” says Amarasingam, and “defend the perception of it in public.” The leadership of people such as George Carlin depended on his education of the new group as he was able to through his stand-up comedy brand of modern philosophy. Although Carlin said calling one’s self a Libertarian is pretentious (Napalm p. 261), it is the closest political view he held being anti-authority and emphasizing the importance of individual liberty. He thought of authority as an imaginary concept developed to oppress disadvantaged people, and how those bowing to authority figures as lazy, weak or just shear stupid. Although most comedians can be thought of as modern day philosophers, Carlin was an expert at rationally arguing reality while giving it a comedic twist. As an intellectual and an individualist, he humorously poked fun at -and poked holes in- modern thought and presented it for what it really is. “The ego refuses to be distressed by the provocations of reality, to let itself be compelled to suffer," said Frued. "It insists that it cannot be affected by the traumas of the external world; it shows, in fact, that such traumas are no more than occasions for it to gain pleasure.” Cynical Philosopher
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