(Everyone knows he died yesterday, right?)
The thing about George Carlin is that he got better with age. Darker. Richer. Fuller. Meaner. Leaner. Better than the famous routines being referenced in the obits. He had more better to get, and now we won’t get that better that he had coming to him.
This is a more significant loss than the collective we of the entertainosphere can reckon. This man was not simply a stand up comic dispensing false fitness cues to the brains of willing rubes, or an oh-so-hip dealer in the debased currency of modern irony. Carlin had grown into the role of a secular shaman, a sacred clown. I doubt that he would have accepted the terms as valid or the role as his. After all, with him nothing was sacred.
Let me try on another comparison. Carlin was not a King of Comedy; he was close to being a Philosopher King. You might say this is a bit much, but sometimes only hyperbole will do to express the plain truth. Carlin knew that. He was a latter day rhetor like the Stoics and Cynics of the Greco-Roman world. The name of the ancient philosophy Cynicism (and the words cynic and cynicism in English) comes from the Greek word kunikos, which means “dog-like.” The cynic “dogs” were not afraid to speak truth to power or anybody else that came along, for that matter.
August Strindberg said, “I loathe people who keep dogs. They are cowards who haven’t got the guts to bite people themselves.” Carlin had the courage of a true Cynic, unsparing of himself as with all comers. He had the guts to bite people himself.
We lost a Philosopher King yesterday. May be that’s why tears came to my eyes when I heard that George Carlin was dead.