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Thursday, May 5, 2016

From the Midway:Death of our clown

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

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One of my favorite performers died recently. Comedian George Carlin left this earth at the age of 71 due to heart failure. I became a fan of his at a young age when one night he was on TV and my mother made me turn the channel because she thought he was just too disgusting.

Wow, I thought if this guy makes people's mothers mad, he must be really good. So with my interest in this guy piqued, I kept my eye out for a chance to see him again. I waited for what seemed like an eternity, and then one day, out of the blue, I was at a friend's house, and his older brother had a copy of the record titled "Class Clown."

My mother was right, he was disgusting, but in a good way, and I never laughed like that in my life. From that moment on , I was a fan of George. Two years ago, when George's last album came out, I was like a kid again- rushing home to play the new album as fast as I could get home.

Yes, George had a mouth on him that would make a sailor blush but if you got past that sophomoric humor you would find that he was a master of the English language. There were reasons to his rhymes and rants. He would make his political and social observations in an honest unpolished way. He would tell you what you needed to hear not what you wanted to hear.

To me, he was trying to wake this country up. He was a modern philosopher on a level with any philosopher from history. Plus he liked to squeeze in a fart joke or two. Much of his comedy came from talking about things people were too afraid to talk about, or people wouldn't talk about it.

Love or hate him, he gave us the gift of freedom of speech.

One of the most fascinating parts of George's act was that he would come up with new material every couple of years. Any stand-up comedian would tell you how difficult that is. Most comedians work on their acts for years, trying to get them just right. But George would always remain fresh and current.

Between the rude jokes and the angry rants, George could tell a story like no other. Raised in an Irish Catholic family, in the heart of New York City, much of his material came from that beginning. New York was a rough city in the 1940s and '50s George would use his gift of humor as a defiant act.

I don't want to get into the history of George's life. You are big people and if you don't know by now why George was famous, you can find out real easy. I thought about filling this column with my favorite Carlin quotes. But on refection, I really could not print any of the really good ones. They're just too dirty.

Which brings me to the point of what I think George was trying to get across. There are no bad words. It is the contexts of the words that make them good or bad. He once said that he as a comedian would find that line of good taste and jump far over it. By doing so he would say something so funny that it would make most people pee themselves.

Now that's comedy in my book.

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During this past week I've gotten a lot of phone calls from friends who heard the news that George had died. Most of these calls were to see if I was all right and how I was doing. That's how much George meant to my friends and me, he was part of our family. If we were ever to form our own religion, George would be our patron saint.

So good-bye George and thanks for all the laughs. I know that in the future, people will look back at you and learn that we took ourselves way too seriously and we needed someone to tell us that.

That was your biggest gift to the world.

That and the fart jokes.

Mike Leckband
From the Midway