The man’s probably laughing up at us

George Carlin is dead. He has ceased to be. He has expired and gone on to meet his maker. He has shuffled off his mortal coil. He…

As a Python fan, this is probably the best tribute I can pay to a comic I love.

I first heard George Carlin on an airplane. I was on a flight from Heathrow to Chennai and one of the in-flight radio stations was playing his rant on airplanes. I think the elderly Brit gentleman across the aisle from me was a little put out by my uproarious laughter, but I’m sure anyone who has heard that speech, especially on an airplane, will sympathize with me.

I wonder wat it was that worked so well for me, other than the fact that the material itself was funny. My conclusion is, it’s because he’s old, looks curmudgeonly and has got a raspy voice that simply drips with annoyance. I think the old part is crucial — many comics are unafraid to kill sacred cows in their act, but I think his age adds an edge to the irreverence.

I am sure he was quite successful and funny even when he was young. But I saw a couple of videos of his earlier work, and I got the distinct impression that I would’ve laughed harder at the same material if his beard was whiter. Maybe I’m just wierd that way. Apart from all the other ways in which I’m wierd, that is.

George, wherever you are (kicking back and taking harp lessons up there maybe), so long and thanks for all the laughs.

I wondered which George Carlin video to link to here, and finally decided on the airplane one for sentimental reasons. Have fun!

And for those of you who didn’t quite get what I was talking about in the beginning of this post, here’s the relevant Monty Python sketch.


7 thoughts on “The man’s probably laughing up at us

  1. Sagarika says:


    A lovely tribute-by-anecdote, this one. “And for those of you who didn’t quite get what I was talking about…” – hey that would be me. I must be orbiting a different planet to have never heard of Mr. Cuss-Minus-the-Fuss Carlin from my very own backyard here in CA. But thanks to you, I’m now a posthumous fan! The person I share my office space with, nearly ran for his life when I exploded the way I did, hearing Carlin’s airplane schpeel…haven’t stopped laughing since. Can’t blame you for reacting the way you did on that flight trip from Heathrow. πŸ™‚

    Lovely line, this one: “I think the old part is crucial β€” many comics are unafraid to kill sacred cows in their act, but I think his age adds an edge to the irreverence.” Spot on. And it brings to mind my dad (surprise, surprise!).

    A comic was the last thing he was wired to be, but dad was my case study on how a person somehow reaches into that inner sanctum of wacky humor as they age. I used to hate his disciplinarian streak growing up, (But to his credit, dad’s always picked his battles with me. He often looked the other way when I snuck out of his bookshelf Harold Robbins novels, while barely 13. He never lectured me on reading lurid literature ahead of my age and so on. I loved that.) but after I flew the nest, grandkids came along, he just took a chill pill or something. During the two years he spent with me here in the US (’05 – ’07) I can’t remember a day I wasn’t laughing my guts out at some wildly irreverent something he came up with, be it relating D-jokes from back issues of Debonair he’d devoured during his magazine-club member days at the bank, or taking a jab at the agony aunt columns in the local paper or making rip-roaringly funny remarks on CA road rage (he used to write Letters to the Editor responding to some wild queries that wound their way into this Q&A column called Roadshow — for a guy who’s never driven, but always wanted to, in the US, he knew a heck of a lot more than I did about road rules and driver behavior, or lack thereof). I wish I’d recorded/saved all of his funny talk/notes. Oh well. Who knew he was gonna drop dead like that. But I do have the back issues of Debonair to remember him by, gathering dust up in the loft of our home in Chennai.

    Weird as that may sound, I’m glad dad is in good company now. Given how bored I can see him getting from Minghella’s sentimental sop stories up there, I’m sure putting thanni and shooting the shit with the likes of Carlin would pick him up a bit, remind him of his nostalgic Madras Christian College days and the friends he’s left behind, who call me up just to say they miss his crack-pot conversations…

  2. Wait a minute! You read Harold Robbins at 13? Was I the only one clueless enough to have not even heard of him until Std XI?

    Your dad must’ve been great fun to have around! For one thing, I didn’t think anyone stored back issues of Debonair after they moved out of a hostel room πŸ˜€ I would’ve enjoyed knowing him, I think.

    And if he was Carlin’s type, he’d have laughed his head off at your last paragraph πŸ™‚

    Try this one if you haven’t already:


  3. Sagarika says:

    Hey thanks. It’s why I guess you paid him that inadvertent tribute on the day of his passing away…a plethora of posts on July 18. I’ll never forget that! There must have been some subliminal connection, thanks to Debonair. πŸ™‚ (And he’ll kill me if he found out I shouted this “private” bit of info about him from the rooftops, but hey, one doesn’t get to have that kind of openness among parents and siblings — definitely not growing up in the semi-conservative neighborhoods the lot of us did back in the Madras of the 80s — so in my book, that calls for celebration and Carlin provided the context, that’s all. I really didn’t realize the value of what I had, with dad, until it was gone.)

    And to think you begrudge me my reading the crapfest that was Harold Robbins at 13. :-)Hell, I’d have given an arm and a leg for the mental wherewithal you had back then, to have read Ray Bradbury, Shakespeare and the lot, instead. Nearly half my life is over (59 being the life-expectancy benchmark on my dad’s side) and I’m barely able to get my feet wet on the Bard without getting bored…must be the influence of the Internet!

  4. Trust me, I was the most clueless 13 year-old on the planet. (My dear loving wife will testify that I am now the most clueless 31 year-old on the planet, and she’d probably be right.)

    The only Shakespeare play I had read at that point was Caesar, and even that didn’t make complete sense to me. I knew the story of a couple of others, like Merchant of Venice, but that’s about it.

    I speak to my wife’s cousins who went to school in the US and I am amazed at how much they get to read at that age. One of them is writing a book report on To Kill a Mockingbird at an age when I still thought The Three Investigators was serious fiction.


  5. Sagarika says:

    Ramsu, “Trust me, I was the most clueless 13 year-old on the planet” – what’s the hurry, you have the rest of your life left to get all clued-in. πŸ™‚ Besides, didn’t Maurice Sendak (yes, of Where the Wild Things Are, fame) say that girls are a lot smarter than boys, mental maturitywise? If I remember correctly, Sendak said to NPR’s Terry Gross that boys probably don’t grow up until they’re 40. You have a good 8 years left to still be that 13-year-old kid (smooth, how you slip in your “younger” age here, just 10 days under the wire!) and I’m intent upon making it my life’s mission to have Sendak rethink his take on girls. πŸ™‚

  6. Sagarika says:

    And it just occured to me that my closing line above might very well be a self-fulfilling prophesy. I seem to be living my life backwards — the latest addition to my nightstand is “How Glooskap Outwits The Ice Giants” — a fantastic book (for kids and the kids in adults) in the Maritime Indian tradition of storytelling. What made me lunge for it at the library the other day was this dust-jacket note with Glooskap saying Something is wrong! I am lonely. I will create human beings. And everything from that point on is wildly wonderful – see if you can lay your hands on this book before you, well, “grow up.” πŸ™‚

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