One Comedian’s Terminal Episode

by M-Gillies

In Last Words George Carlin tells the story of his life from birth to his final years.

George Carlin’s Personal Sendoff Instructions

Upon my death, I wish to be cremated. The disposition of my ashes (dispersal at sea, on land, or in the air) shall be determined by my surviving family (wife and daughter) in accordance with their knowledge of my predjudices and philosophies regarding geography and spirituality. Under no circumstances are my ashes to be retained by anyone or buried in a particular location. The eventual dispersal can be delayed for any reasonable length of time to reach a decision, but not to exceed one month following my death.
I wish no public service of any kind.
I wish no religious service of any kind.
I prefer a private gathering at my home, attended by friends and family members who shall be determined by my immediate surviving family (wife and daughter).
The exact nature of this gathering shall be determined by my surviving family (wife and daughter). It should be extremely informal, they should play rhythm and blues music and they should laugh a lot. Vague references to spirituality (secular) will be permitted.

Iconically known as the counterculture hippie with the anti-establishmentarian philosophy, a satirist who pushed the boundaries of safety with edgy and provocative routines about drugs, dirty words and the demise of humanity, George Denis Patrick Carlin followed hot on the heels of progressive comedian Lenny Bruce with his take on the seven dirty words you can’t say on television.

With over 50 years in the comedy circle, Carlin offered listeners an acerbic view that polarized taboo topics from politics and religion, to psychology and the English language. With an observational and aphoristic approach to his humor, Carlin excelled at pointing out the fuzzy language and fuzzy words of euphemisms that society uses.

Older sounds a little better than old, doesn’t it,” Carlin would note. “Sounds like it might even last a little longer, I’m getting old, and it’s OK, because thanks to our fear of death in this country, I won’t have to die, I’ll pass away or expire, like a magazine subscription.”

However, his outlook toward life and the absurdity of it didn’t happen all at once. While honing his abilities as a clean-cut comedian, George Carlin found influences in Bruce’s notorious comedic stage jokes and coupled by the social and political upheaval of the late 60s took on a new persona.

Sporting faded jeans and long hair, Carlin scrapped the suit and tie ensemble that earned him frequent appearances on The Tonight Show as both performer and guest host, in the process losing TV bookings for his unorthodox appearance. While this radical transformation lost him some gigs, it cemented his place as a voice for a new generation.

During the height of Carlin’s career at the end of the 70s, the comedian suffered the first of three heart attacks, eventually succumbing to his heart disease in 2008. While the 71-year-old comedian who seemed to revel in the topic of death, including mass suicide and ecological disaster like a sadistic cheerleader, Carlin always maintained his love for life and his keen interest in the human race.

“The most unfair thing about life is the way it ends,” Carlin once said. “I mean, life is tough. It takes up a lot of your time. What do you get at the end of it? A Death! What’s that, a bonus? I think the life cycle is all backwards. You should die first, get it out of the way. Then you live in an old age home. You get kicked out when you’re too young, you get a gold watch, you go to work. You work forty years until you’re young enough to enjoy your retirement. You do drugs, alcohol, you party, you get ready for high school. You go to grade school, you become a kid, you play, you have no responsibilities, you become a little baby, you go back into the womb, you spend your last nine months floating√ñ and you finish off as an orgasm.”

To celebrate Carlin’s legacy as an influential comedian, HBO held a tribute on June 25-28, 2008, showcasing 11 of Carlin’s 14 HBO specials.

For more than a decade prior to his death, Carlin had been working on his autobiography Last Words. After his death, the book was posthumously published and offers fans insight into the evolution of this centuries most recognizable and influential comedian.

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