(May 12, 1937 — June 22, 2008) was an American comedian who made a permanent name for himself in the annals of comedy, mostly for making funny all the things that usually make people go Dude, Not Funny!
After a failed stint in the U.S. Air Force and a brief time in radio and news he mostly became a lifelong comedian, initially partnering up with writer/comedian Jack Burns. However, after the two broke up in the late 1960s, Carlin entered the 1970s as a new comedian. A DIRTY COMEDIAN. That said, he also played "Mr. Conductor"
on Shining Time Station
(a children's show), as well as a stint as the Narrator, so he wasn't completely Child Unfriendly.note
He is also well known for playing Rufus in the Bill & Ted
movies and Cardinal Glick in Dogma
(which Kevin Smith
put him in and which he agreed to appear in mostly so that they could make fun of "the kind of asshole who'd bless his golf clubs for a better game"). Over the course of his life he acted in some fourteen odd films in total, in addition to numerous television appearances spanning everything from The Simpsons
to Welcome Back, Kotter
and several commercials. He also hosted Saturday Night Live
's premiere episode on October 11th, 1975 note
His comedy was focused on accentuating the negative
, and poked much fun at the Logical Fallacies
aspects of American culture, especially regarding politics and religion. He also made jokes about subjects usually considered unfunny
, such as torture, rape, genocide, etc. This was actually done on purpose, as he later Lampshaded
, to prove that we modern humans weren't much different from our supposedly more barbaric progenitors. That is, he wanted to show that if those things were entertaining then, they would be now - and, judging by the audience's laughter, they were.
Despite dropping Cluster F Bombs
a lot, he was a very erudite man, who would peruse the media and the Internet for ideas for his comedy, even encouraging people to do the same for their own cultural and educational benefit. Combined with his disgust for the over insulation of our society from the harshness of reality and its own paranoias over its most minor social issues, one could possibly take his Refuge in Audacity
/vulgarity laden humor as an attempt to broaden social awareness.
He also changed the FCC's rules on obscenity. After the "Seven Dirty Words You Can Never Say on Television
" routine, it's amusing to note that the FCC has more or less modified its policies towards the times when obscenity can be put on the airwaves and what is considered child unsafe around the time of this skit. He is also indirectly responsible for Pay-per-View, which was the logical conclusion on making audiences of obscene content self selective.
In his later years, he became more caustic and crude (partially due to relaxed social standards and partially due to age), and he struggled repeatedly with alcohol and vicodin addictions.
In 2008, he died of heart failure. He was given several awards both during his life and posthumously for his contributions to comedy. Shortly after his death, in a poll taken from nearly 5000 of his fellow stand-up comedians, he was voted the second funniest stand-up comedian of all time. The comedian who beat him for the title? Richard Pryor
A sort-of biography
(obviously written before his death) of Carlin was released on November 10th, 2009, which Carlin wrote with the assistance of Tony Hendra, one of the original writers of the National Lampoon magazine. After Carlin's death, Hendra approached the late comedian's family with his plans for the book. The audio version was narrated by George's brother Patrick, who is an author himself, and sounds so much like George, it's scary.
As he was well-known for his great writing, expect to find many quotes taken directly from the man himself (and many that weren't
"An incomplete list of impolite tropes":
- Abusive Parents: His father. Though his father left before he could lay any abuse on George, his mother and older brother Patrick got the brunt of it.
- Acceptable Targets: Plenty, but mainly Organised Religion and the American government.
- He was famous for considering everything an Acceptable Target. In the intro to Brain Droppings, one of his books, he says that he hates every single Group, religion (except for the music) and ideal in the world; the fact that he tends to have more material on one or another is simply a factor of that one group making itself more of a target.
George Carlin: If you live on this planet, you're guilty, period, fuck you, end of report, next case! ... Your birth certificate is proof of guilt!
- Aggressive Categorism: Carlin love to do this in his rants. For comedic effect, of course.
- An Aesop: Often a basis for his own sketches; he even namechecks the "sour grapes" tale in an audiobook.
- American Dream: In his second to last HBO special, he remarked that "it's called the American dream 'cause you have to be asleep to believe it."
- Apocalypse How: Develops from a Class 0 to X-4 in "Coast-to-Coast Emergency", in which Carlin delivers a thought experiment on how he would imagine it taking place.
- The Aristocrats: Told a version of the joke in the movie, going so far as to describe in great detail the fecal matter used in his rendition.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: In a rant about what God has failed to prevent:
"War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades."
- And "tits" on the Seven Dirty Words, at least to him.
- In one of his books he mentions a news story of two men who were arrested for forcing a little boy to smoke, drink, and perform oral sex on them.
"Can you imagine? Smoking!"
- Artistic License – Statistics:
- Apparently praying to anyone answered 50% of his prayers. So it is either this trope, or he spent a lot of time praying for things like 'land on tails'.
- In one routine, he says something to the order of, "look at how stupid the average person is, and realize that half of them are stupider than that!"
- As the Good Book Says: Carlin wasn't above citing the Bible to stress his points, as he did in It's Bad For Ya.
Carlin: Be happy, don't be proud, there's too much pride as it is. "Pride goeth before the fall" - never forget Proverbs.
- At Least I Admit It (Said in regards to his tendencies to do things For the Evulz)
- Also his theory about how Bill Clinton got re-elected: Unlike Dole, he told people how full of bullshit he was, and the people voted for him because
"At least he's honest about being completely full of shit!"
- Baby Factory. Carlin finds it offensive. He calls it "pumping out a unit".
George Carlin: I also happen to like it when feminists attack these fatass housewives who think there's nothing more to life that sitting home on the telephone, drinking coffee, watching TV and pumping out a baby every nine months. P-poom, p-poom, p-poom, p-poom, p-poom... will seven be enough, Bob? ... p-poom, p-poom.
- Badass Beard: One of his books also gave tips on how to maintain one too.
"Here's my beard, ain't it weird? Don't be skeered, it's just a beard. People were thrown off by that word, beard. Not American-sounding. Beard. Lenin had a beard. Gabby Hayes had whiskers."
- Badass Grandpa: Became one. He was a generally kind and considerate man in his personal life, but anyone who got on his bad side learned to regret it.
- Bald of Awesome: Developed this towards the end.
- Also went after white guys who shaved their heads. "If you wanna be bald, do what I did: wait a while!"
- Baseball and Football: This is the subject and title of one of his more famous routines.
- Batter Up: He once implicitly threatened to bash his daughter's abusive boyfriend's head in with a bat.
- This is also how he claims Joe Pesci solved his problem regarding a neighbor's noisy dog, thus doing a better job than God in the problem-solving department.
- Beam Me Up, Scotty!: A few "George Carlin Quotes" lists and a "New Rules for Hurricane Katrina" chain e-mail have been making their way around the Internet for some time now. None of them are actually written by George. This got so bad that George had to put up a disclaimer on his website that he wasn't the one who wrote them. Lampshaded in "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Stop Forwarding that Crap to Me" with the line "And by the way, your quotes from George Carlin aren't really George Carlin."
- With the current (as of 2013) popularity of Facebook, many quotes that he might not have said are added to pictures of him and shared throughout the website.
- Beware the Quiet Ones: Treated this idea with disdain.
"I will bet you anything that while you're watching a quiet one, a noisy one will FUCKING KILL YOU! Suppose you're in a bar and one guy's sittin' over on the side, readin' a book, not bothering anybody, another guy's standing up front with a machete, bangin' it on the bar, sayin' 'I'LL KILL THE NEXT MOTHERFUCKER WHO COMES IN HERE!' Who ya gonna watch? You're goddamn right."
- Black Comedy: A master. Arguably one of the best examples is his material on suicide in Life is Worth Losing, where he monologues as though he were planning to kill himself and discussed when, where and how to do it—and it was hilarious. The suicide note for example.
- Black Comedy Rape: He had several hilarious bits related to rape.
George Carlin: Man... men...males have pushed the technology that just about has this planet in a stranglehold. Mother Earth, raped again. Guess who. "Hey, she was asking for it."
- Another bit: "There's a rape every six minutes in this country. And boy is my dick sore! I'm tellin' ya, every day, house to house. There's no let-up. It's a fuckin' hassle."
- Blah Blah Blah: George's shorthand for saying "this person is talking shit".
- Berserk Button: Many things, but chief among them were idiocy and ignorance, which would often lead to seemingly Unstoppable Rage directed towards the world around him. Some of his most enduring material comes from those moments. He also didn't take heckling well.
- "WELL, I GET PISSED, GOD DAMN IT!!!"
- One of his routines was devoted entirely to telling a heckler off, in the most jaw droppingly brutal way possible.
- "So fuck you and your sister and your wife, if you got a kid, I hope your fucking kid dies in a car fire! How do you like that, you stupid cocksucker?! Shut the fuck up and get the fuck outta here!" Do not fuck with Carlin.
- When he was fired from Las Vegas after saying "ass" and "shit" in front of a crowd full of golfers, he developed a lifelong hatred for golf. Generally punctuated by "Have you ever watched golf on TV? It's like watching flies fuck." It culminated in the "Golf Courses for the Homeless" routine, wherein he suggests using the land on golf courses for low-cost housing.
- He touched on this in his "Dirty Words" routine (not to be confused with the "7 Words" - they're different bits). "I once got thrown out of a hotel in Vegas for saying the word 'shit', in a town where one of the most popular games is called craps. ...Never made sense to me."
- In fact, it's safe to say his on-stage persona had a Hair-Trigger Temper.
- The self-esteem movement, which he mocked from it's beginning until his death.
- Big Name Fan: The late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez actually made the aforementioned golf rant part of his national policy. It doesn't get much bigger than that.
- Boomerang Bigot: Carlin reserved some searing criticism for white people and men.
- Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: Followed by Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking in "Stuff": "Now you just bring the things you know you're gonna need: Money, keys, comb, wallet, lighter, hanky, pens, cigarettes, contraceptives, Vaseline, whips, chains, whistles, dildos, and a book!"
- Well, at least the things you hope you're gonna need.
- Breakup Breakout: Though Jack Burns did have a successful career post-split, Carlin went into legend territory.
- Brick Joke: An uncommon but funny occurrence. In an early skit, two sisters were to be reunited on a Truth or Consequences-type skit, but "you blew the question so we sent your sister back to Maine!" Then later that sister appeared on a Queen for a Day-like show and referenced the first skit.
- And demonstrating just how truly awesome the man was, he accomplished this posthumously, with a little help from NPR of all places. One of Carlin's routines was about the appropriate time to remove someone's name from your address book after they've died, with it coming out to six months. Six months after he dies, cue a short NPR story on the routine... and a final farewell.
- The guy in the Grateful Dead t-shirt and the "Fuck you!" hat from "Airline Announcements."
- After his Rape as Comedy skit (seen below), he goes into a rant on feminism, though he agrees with feminism on its basic point on how men have systematically abused women and pretty much everything else: "Mother Earth, raped again. 'Hey, she was askin' for it.'"
- Brooklyn Rage: Grew up in "White Harlem" which was called such because it sounded cooler than Morningside Heights. He also mentioned his "New York credentials" on Complaints and Grievances:
"I was born on this island, Manhattan Island, therefore I was born in New York City, New York county, and New York state. City, county, and state. And on top of that, I was born in New York Hospital
...but here's the thing most of you don't know. Know where I was conceived? Rockaway Beach."
- Calling Your Bathroom Breaks: He has a bit about how embarrassing it would be to have your fiance do this at a dinner party, and wonders just what drives people to do it.
"There seems to be no really genteel way...of announcing publicly...a dump."
- Captain Ersatz: Carlin from the 90's on became the epitome of the "angry comic". In The Simpsons, when Krusty became one, he adopted the same ponytail and attitude as Carlin.
- Chalk Outline: There's one on the cover of his 1977 album On the Road.
- Cerebus Syndrome: His act from the 1970s and early 1980s was much Lighter and Softer — less angry, a bit less vulgar, and certainly less political — than his act from about '87 on.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Though more present in his earlier stand-ups up to the 80's. It gets overshadowed by his increasingly abrasive persona. Though even then he encourages parents allow kids today to be more like this trope by daydreaming instead of giving an abundance of after-school activities.
- Cluster F-Bomb: He would veer between this and Precision F-Strike to excellent effect.
"Shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, and tits."
- His skit on how fuck has changed:
Fuck you. Fuck you, you Fuck. Fuck you, you Fuck; who the Fuck do you think you're Fucking with? Some kind of Fuckhead? Fuck you. Who the Fuck you think you're Fucking with, me? Don't Fuck with me! I will Fuck you over. You Fuck with me, you will get Fucked, you Fuck! Don't Fuck with me; I'm the Fucker! Don't Fuck with the Fucker!"
- One of this classic bits was exchanging "kill" with "fuck" in "Again".
- The "Incomplete Listnote of Impolite Words", which adds well over a hundred words and counting to the original list.
- Comedic Sociopathy: An undisputed master of the genre.
- Compensating for Something: According to his "We Like War" routine, the whole reason for wars.
Men are terrified that their pricks are inadequate and so they have to compete with one another to feel better about themselves and since war is the ultimate competition, basically men are killing each other in order to improve their self-esteem. You do not have to be a historian or political scientist to see the "bigger dick foreign policy theory" at work. It sounds like this: What? They have bigger dicks?! BOMB THEM! And off course the bombs and the rockets and the bullets are all shaped like dicks. It is a subconscious need to project the penis into other peoples' affairs. It is called FUCKING WITH PEOPLE!
- Conspiracy Theorist: Definitely not one of those out-there people, but he had very interesting things to say. At the very least, he believed the imbalance of power in the United States and the world as a whole as something planned, political participation by citizens as simple appeasement, technological innovation as useless and counterproductive, and insinuated that all of that was somehow consciously done by powerful people for nefarious purposes, namely keeping everyone pacified and stupid in order to exploit them, rather than believing it just developed as a result of global capitalism.
- Cool Old Fuck: Almost goes without saying.
- Creepy Monotone: Often part of his punchline delivery, especially in the early years. On one of his albums the audience actually jumps (some of them, anyway) at the way he says the word "beard", and he works it into the routine.
Lenin had a beard. Gabby Hayes had whiskers.
- Crosses the Line Twice: A staple of his last few shows especially.
- He himself all but invoked this trope word for word: "I think it's the duty of the comedian to find out where the line is drawn, and cross it deliberately."
George Carlin: Want to piss off a feminist? Call her a cum-catcher, that'll get her attention!
George Carlin: Oh, don't act disgusted! Don't act disgusted! Half of you are gonna go home and go down on each other tonight, remember? If you're willing to swallow cum, let's not make believe that something I said was disgusting!
- During his "Capital Punishment" routine:
Instead of an axe, you do the beheadings with a handsaw! (Audience groans) Hey, don't bail out on me now, goddammit! The blood is already on our hands; all we're talking about is a matter of degree!
- Unlike most shock comedians, however, George also noted that, once the line was crossed, the comedian had to get the audience to cross as well and be happy that they did.
- Cultural Cringe: This American man had no love at all for the worst behaviors of Americans. He still said he loved America, and wouldn't have it any other place or time. I suppose he just liked his first-row ticket to a fairly busy act of the human freak show.
- A Date with Rosie Palms: Carlin stated in It's Bad For Ya that despite autoerotic asphyxia making orgasms 500 times more intense, he's not looking to "double his money" because "it seemed a little risky" to him.
Carlin: Naw, I just jerk off, wipe off my chest, and go about my day. We're simple folk.
- Deadpan Snarker: Not always Deadpan, but very much a snarker.
- Despair Event Horizon: What he claimed was the end result of living in a Crapsack World, albeit milked for as much dark humor as possible.
- Dirty Old Fuck: Self-admitted.
- Drives Like Crazy: You realize this whenever you hear one of his routines on cars.
- Drugs Are Good: In his autobiography he praises cannabis, LSD, and mescaline for their positive effects on his life.
- Drugs Are Bad: But he condemns opiates and cocaine for the damage they did to his health and his wallet.
- Dude, Not Funny!: Invoked. The man made a career of subverting this. For example, proving that rape could be funny by introducing us to the mental image of Porky Pig raping Elmer Fudd. Either the sheer absurdity of the idea makes you laugh, or your childhood memories will be shattered.
- Early Installment Weirdness: Started out as one half of the old comedy duel with a comedian, Jack Burns (though he soon became a solo act). He mostly wore a suit & tie, was clean-shaven, short-haired, well-groomed a lot less dirty. He did have a few classic routines in the early days such as "The Hippie-Dippie Weatherman" & The Indian Staff Sergent. As The Sixties came to a close, he had had it with the clean-cut facade he had to put out and started The Seventies with the persona we know today.
- Erotic Eating: Lampshaded by Carlin, combined with Male Gaze and All Men Are Perverts.
Carlin: As long as I'm being a complete pig up here, let me ask you guys a question. Are you ever able to watch a woman eating a banana and NOT think about a blowjob? I can't do it. And I know why: I'm a sick, evil fuck! I admit that! I can't do it! Eating a banana, eating a pickle, licking on an ice cream cone. I'm thinking to myself "LOOK AT THE TONGUE ON HER! WOW!" So ladies, be careful when you're standing out in front of that Häagen-Dazs. 'Cause God damn it, we're watching. And God damn it, we're thinking!
- Erudite Stoner: Carlin was very intelligent and said lots of interesting bits of wisdom, but there's no doubt as to what some of his hobbies included.
- Blatantly exposed in his ''Last Words' autobiography, where it's pretty much stated that whilst pot potentially helped his career and partially fashioned him into the comic he'd become famous as, there were some terrible downsides.
- Everything's Better Deep Fried: Well, to the rest of America, according to George.
"Americans love to eat. They are fatally attracted to the slow-death of fast food. Hot dogs, corn dogs, triple bacon cheeseburgers, deep-fried, butter-dipped in pork fat and cheese-whiz, mayonnaise, soaked barbecue, mozzarella patty melts. Americans will eat anything. Anything. ANYTHING. Shit, if you were selling fried raccoons assholes on a stick
, Americans would buy them and eat them! Especially if you were to dip them in butter and put a little salsa on them!"
- Fan Nickname: "Old Fuck", posthumously, since in It's Bad For Ya, Carlin expressed his desire to be known as that. ("Who's the old fuck?" "That's Georgie, the old fuck.")
- Fighting Irish: He was of Irish descent and joked that he was an Irish catholic until "He reached the age of reason".
"I used to be Irish Catholic, now I'm an American. You know, you grow..."
- For the Evulz: When talking about the Catholic doctrine of sins of intention in one of his stand-ups, notably.
"You could wake up one morning and say to yourself, 'I think I'm going to go down to 27th street today and commit myself a mortal sin!' Save the bus-fare, man! You did it!"
- Fridge Logic: Or as he calls it in Carlin On Campus — "These are the kinds of things I think of when I'm home alone and the television is broken."
"In restaurants where they serve frog's legs...what do they do with the rest of the frog? Do they just throw it away? You never see frog torsos on the menu, they throw them away! Could you imagine a barrel full of frog bodies?"
"If you're going to have a rain dance, wouldn't you have to have rain dance practice? And what I'm wondering is, does it rain during practice? Because if it doesn't, how do you know if you have it right? And if it does, why bother with the dance in the first place? Need a little water? Call practice!"
"We have flamethrowers, and what this indicates to me is that at some point someone said to himself "Gee, I'd sure like to set those people on fire over there, but I'm way too far away to get the job done. If only I had something to throw flame on them". And it might have ended there but he mentioned it to his friend, his friend who was good with tools, heh, and about a month later he came back, "Hey, quite a concept!" FWOOOSH."
- And don't even get him started on airports.
- Fuck Politeness, I'm an Old Fuck!: To paraphrase from It's Bad For Ya: advantages of getting old include being able to chalk up any mental slip to old age, ability to get out of social obligations by claiming to be tired, never having to carry one's bags again.
- Fundamentally Funny Fruit: One of his routines first subverts this trope, then plays it straight.
- Gallows Humor: The title of his sortabiography, Last Words, is half this and half Tearjerker.
- His discussion of his health problems, comparing them to those of his friend Richard Pryor.
"An update on the comedian health sweepstakes. I currently lead Richard Pryor in heart attacks 2 to 1. But Richard still leads me 1 to nothing in burning yourself up. See, it happened like this: first Richard had a heart attack, then I had a heart attack. Then Richard burned himself up, and I said, 'Fuck that. I'm having another heart attack!"
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: As Mr. Conductor, even:
"The farmer was telling Mavis just what she could do with her train."
- Girl-on-Girl Is Hot: From the part about tollbooths in the section "New Jersey and License Plates" in "More Stuff About Cars and Driving" from his 1988 album What Am I Doing In New Jersey?:
"Tell them, 'I don't have any change, I spent all my money on pussy and beer.
' That'll wake 'em up. Especially if you're a woman!"
- Glurge: Absolutely hated this kind of sentiment and was very pissed in later years when a number of saccharine online essays were being attributed to him, some of which even lamented the decline of prayer in American culture. This makes one wonder if said attributors even knew who Carlin was.
- God Is Evil: A lot of his humor was based around this.
- A Good Name for a Rock Band: In one of his books he provided a whole list of these, among them "Warts, Waffles, and Walter", and best of all, "The Stillborn".
- Grammar Nazi: Well, really more of an entire language Nazi, really. Carlin was an avid scholar of etymology and crafted a lot of his humor in later routines on the misuse and misunderstanding of common slangs and phrases being used, and disgust over words being dumbed down and losing their intensity and meaning under jargon.
"Place the turkey in a pre-heated oven! It's ridiculous! There are only two states an oven can possibly exist in, heated or un-heated!"
"Flammable... Inflammable... Non-Inflammable. Shouldn't two words be enough to cover that?"
- Greatest Hits Album: 1978's Indecent Exposure: Some of the Best of George Carlin.
- Groin Attack: He once said that "groin" is the sound people make when they get struck in that area.
- Growing The Ponytail: Carlin himself considered his two specials, '90's "Doin' It Again" and '92's "Jammin' In New York" to be this, as he felt these were the first special where his material really clicked and he truly connected with the audience. Leading up to this his skits were relying less on character-based comedy and more on jokes about society and the misuse of language. Afterwards his material became much more cynical and dark compared to before.
- Hair-Trigger Temper: His last few years, where his stage persona became increasingly bitter and even more hilarious. Surprisingly, he was a calm, patient and almost compassionate fellow in Real Life.
- Heh Heh, You Said X: He gives an example of this with the word "cock" in his stand-up.
"Remember when we were in the sixth grade and we used to laugh at everything? 'And the cock crowed three times...' 'Hey! It's in the Bible!' Remember the first time you heard of a cockfight? 'No, it's not that, man!'"
- Hidden Depths: Despite what people expect of a staunch atheist like Carlin, he knew the Bible backwards and forwards. His final lines in his final show It's Bad For Ya included Proverbs. He also acknowledged there was a chance that people might survive death in a non-corporeal form, but he doubted it.
- Hilarious in Hindsight: Invoked. A big part of his material, though not as much in later shows, was to "remind you of things you already know, but forgot to laugh at the first time they happened".
"Remember the first time you heard about a cockfight? WHAT, no!"
- Horny Vikings: Carlin stated they were real bad news.
George Carlin: We come from that northern European, basically the northern European genes, the blue eyes. Those blue eyes. Boy everybody in the world learned real quick, didn't they? When those blue eyes sail out of the north, you better nail everything down. Nail it down, strap it down, or they'll grab it. If they can’t take it home, they'll burn it. If they can't burn it, they'll fuck it.
- Hurricane of Puns: Used sparingly and to great effect, skirting past Incredibly Lame Pun territory with ease.
- Hypocritical Humor: Often within the same skit, done deliberately to highlight both sides of an argument.
- He also said the same about being on Thomas the Tank Engine and Shining Time Station and then saying that most kids are stupid.
"And remember, this is Mr. Conductor talking; I know what I'm talking about!"
- Incoming Ham: "So, lemme ask you something! Lemme ask you something! How's everybody doin' tonight, huh?!" [audience cheers] "Good, well fuck you!!!" [audience laughs] "Just trying to make you feel at home!"
- Incredibly Lame Pun: Sometimes he acts defensive about his own puns, even when they're funny:
"I've got an idea for the perfect name for a gay bar: 'The Mouthful.' Isn't that great? It's a double pun! Well god damn it, YOU didn't think of it! Even if you're not gay, step inside...have a cocktail! Or a high ball!"
- The Irish Diaspora: Averted. Carlin is Irish (formerly Irish Catholic, but he gave up being Catholic at age 3), and revels in it.
- It Came from the Fridge: His "meatcake" routine, which got a lot of play on Dr Demento.
- It's a Small Net After All: Subverted. Unlike most people of his age, George was a big advocate of computers as a more efficient way of storing information, including composing his own material on them and using the internet for research. His later television specials even namecheck popular sites.
- On the other hand, one of his "short takes" from his book Brain Droppings says that when people ask him if he has an e-mail address, he tells them email@example.com/upyourass, and this seems never to fail to get the point across to them.
- Jade-Colored Glasses: While he was always crude and had fun poking at cultural taboos for satire, it was fairly light-hearted at first, then his material became much darker as his career continued.
- Jerkass Façade & Jerk with a Heart of Gold: See Jerkass Woobie (under YMMV) and Happily Married. And there was also the time when he met a young fan of Shining Time Station at an airport, and rather than disillusion him by telling him that Mr. Conductor didn't exist, he patiently explained that he was "on vacation" from the magical island. He also genuinely loved his wife, Brenda, and felt a lot of guilt about how he acted during most of his daughter's childhood.
- Kill All Humans: Well, most of them...
- Knuckle Cracking: Demonstrated in "Class Clown"; he mentions that it was a good way to gross out the girls in his class.
- Lampshade Hanging/Medium Awareness: (In a bit composed of fart jokes): I have no ending for this, so I take a small bow."
- Large Ham: When confronting some of his soapbox issues especially.
[about traffic accidents]: Well of course they're hurt - LOOK AT ALL THE BLOOD! You just ran over them with a ton and a half of STEEL!!!
[about why men go to war - The Bigger Dick Theory]: What? They have bigger dicks? BOMB THEM!!!
[about God]: He loves you... he loves you and He NEEDS MONEY!!! He ALWAYS NEEDS MONEY!
[about life support]: I hate that macho bullshit posturing. 'If I'm like a vegetable, pull the plug on me.' FUCK YOU, LEAVE MY PLUG ALONE!!!
You get an extension cord for MY plug! ...Vegetable shit, I don't care if I look like an artichoke! SAAAAAAVE MY
[about people who won't shut up] You're searching through your mind for something diplomatic and tactful and graceful that you can say to help end the conversation, but all I can ever come up with is BLOW IT OUT YOUR ASS! BLOW IT OUT YOUR ASS!! BLOW IT OUT YOUR ASS!!! BLOW IT OUT YOUR ASS... BLOW IT OUT YOUR ASS!!! [Note: In the video release, they replaced it with "SHUT THE FUCK UP! SHUT THE FUCK UP! SHUT THE FUCK UP! SHUT THE FUCK UP!!!".]
- Lighter and Softer: Contrasting two different things, like in his "Baseball vs. Football" sketch, to make one appear more wholesome.
Football is played in a stadium, often called a colliseum, on a gridiron. Baseball is played on a diamond, in a park. Let's all go to the park!
- There was also his famous role as Rufus in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure and the sequel, where he was like this, compared to his other work. (He didn't cuss even once.)
- And of course, again, he was Mr. Conductor. Although that was an invocation—he wanted to show everyone something unexpected from him. (In his actual life, he seems to have been a kind man, albeit one who didn't much care for bullshit.)
- Listing The Forms Of Degenerates: George uses this in groups that gotta go routine.
Predators, degenerates, crackheads, and fruitcakes; 900 miles of fence separating them.
- Lite Creme: His routine on marketing words has a section devoted to this type of marketing:
"'Lemony taste'. What does that mean? Right. It means no fucking lemons!"
- Logical Fallacies: Based a lot of his humour on this, usually using a Precision F-Strike or two (rather than his more common Cluster F Bombs), as in this gem:
"Another women's issue I don't get, prostitution, I don't understand why prostitution is illegal. Selling is legal, fucking is legal. Why isn't selling fucking legal? Why is it illegal to sell something that's perfectly legal to give away?"
- Long List: Several of his routines hinged on delivering Long Lists either as fast as possible or using them to build up to a big joke.
- Loophole Abuse: In "Rules, Rules, Rules," regarding "No singing at the table":
"You can stand right next to the table and sing your ass off—just don't sit down! *Sings* I'm standin' near the table during dinner and I'm singing and it isn't even covered by your ruuuuuuuule."
- Lopsided Dichotomy: "It's either 8:15 or Mickey has a hard-on!"
- Mathematician's Answer: Related to Lopsided Dichotomy, Carlin suggests that, if someone asks you "Do you have the time?" you answer "Yes!" and walk away.
- Mean Character, Nice Actor: A classic case, as incredibly cynical, bitter and hateful his material got in the later years, he was a very nice and gentle man and led a pretty good life. He even admitted he relished the chance to get up onstage and rip society to shreds as a kind of shared catharsis with his audience, and in his autobiography states if he was anywhere near as bitter and misanthropic as his stage persona, he would have shot himself years ago.
- Mind Screw: The opening of the appropriately named special Playin' With Your Head. In the opening skit, which is in black and white, Carlin plays Mike Holder, a man with an unspecified job who is delivered lunch by an unfamiliar delivery man. He ends up fleeing when the man turns out to be working with two other men implied to be former partners with Holder and now chasing him to steal an envelope in his possession. Arriving at the theater they try to talk him into handing the envelope over, but Holder declares they wouldn't know what to do with it, and walks through a door onto the stage ignoring their warnings. Suddenly he's in stage attire and it's in color, and Carlin does his stand-up. When he's done he goes back out, his clothing and the color change back, and he tears the envelope up to the sneers of the three men who leave while the stage staff applaud his performance. You guess is as good as ours as to what the hell was going on in the story of the skit, particularly the envelope since they never reveal what's inside.
- Mood Whiplash: Scroll up and read the heckler rant under Berserk Button. He follows it up with:
"See, you gotta use psychology. You gotta be a bit of a psychologist up here and know how to appeal to a person."
- Motor Mouth: Especially in the "Modern Man" routine. Even early in his career, when lampooning his previous career as a Top 40 Radio DJ.
- A better example would be "You and Me (Things That Come Off of Your Body)" from Complaints and Grievances, especially the cursing that became a running gag.
- See also the entries under Signature Style.
- N-Word Privileges: Deconstructed.
- In another routine he says that if he had to pick what term he prefers people to use for whites it would be "blue-eyed devil" because it sounds so romantic and tangy.
- Name One: "Name six ways we're better than chickens!" (Beat) "See, nobody can do it!"
- Not In My Back Yard: Once pointed out how those people who say "Build more prisons" always follow it with "But not here," adding "If someone breaks out of prison, what do you think they are going to do, hang around. That's the whole point of breaking out of prison, to get as far away from it as you can."
- Once an Episode: Carlin's signature curtsy, which he did after every routine in his show until his balance wasn't good enough anymore to perform it.
- Only Sane Fuck: He often came across as the only person intelligent enough not just to notice the serious problems with the world, but be able to articulate them in humorous ways.
- Our Gods Are Greater: "My god has a bigger dick than your god!"
- Overly Long Gag: "Coast-to-Coast Emergency" from Life is Worth Losing.
- But TOTALLY worth it.
- Especially for Uncle Dave. All of them.
- Oxymoronic Being: Not really, but he popularized a type of humor where two terms are presented as oxymoronic for rhetorical effect (which is not a true oxymoron). Examples he himself used include "military intelligence", "freedom fighters"note , "business ethics". (Carlin didn't actually invent this type of humor - William Frank Buckley, Jr is credited with that - but he likely popularized it).
- Papa Wolf: As he recounted in Last Words, he learned that a boy was abusing his daughter and had gotten her pregnant. George ordered the boy's father to keep the boy away from his daughter. When the boy showed up again anyway, all George had to do was come out wielding a baseball bat before he got the message.
- Pet the Dog: A recurring motif in his earlier routines was that he loved dogs, and he often made cracks about how much fun they could be, as well as stories about his own dog, Tippy.
- He eulogized Tippy in Doin' It Again. At the end of the show, he introduced his new dog: "This is Moe! Moe says 'hello'!"
- The Pete Best: He originally partnered with Jack Burns, and though he had a great career of his own, it was never as big as it was with Carlin.
- Once boasted that he was actually the ANTI-Pete Best for replacing Ringo Starr on Shining Time Station.
- Phallic Weapon: From "Rockets and Penises in the Persian Gulf," from 1992's Jammin' in New York:
- Planet of Hats: One of Carlin's bits. His desire: making a religion that was hats optional, seeing as the rules on the subject made no sense from religion to religion.
- Playing Against Type: His stand-up is mostly about the Crapsack World in which we live. In the Bill & Ted movies, he plays a character from a time in which everything is pretty much perfect.
- Pop-Cultured Badass: In a verbal sense. He was VERY in tune with popular culture, and had no problem or fear in calling out all the ills in popular society and the people responsible.
- Precision F-Strike: He had a gift for inserting profanity in some of his skits for maximum impact.
- Raised Catholic: "I used to be Irish Catholic, now I'm American." Most of the jokes in Class Clown are about his time of being one in a Catholic high school.
- Refuge in Audacity: Always.
- Retirony: The last chapter of his autobiography indicated that he had enough notes to write a Broadway play or musical based on his life, entitled "New York Boy". Unfortunately, his autobiography was released posthumously.
- Running Gag: Well, not so much 'gag' as he tended toward stock phrases for some of his specials to punctuate his jokes.
"...and that seems to hold 'em for about a half an hour."
"...I sense I've gone too far."
"Well, some people need practical advice!"
"WELL I GET PISSED GODDAMMIT!"
- Russian Reversal: Some of the biggest laughs from his 1970s albums came from simply inverting the words in a phrase.
- (From Seven Dirty Words, talking about words that are only dirty some of the time) "Prick. It's okay to say if it happens to your finger. Yes, you can prick your finger, but don't finger your prick."
- "People say they tell time. But you don't tell time, time tells you."
- Sarcasm Mode. Always done expertly.
- Scenery Porn: George had some impressively elaborate stage sets throughout his standup career, though interestingly he never really used prop comedy.
- Schmuck Bait: from Carlin on Campus.
"Please God, let me do a good show tonight. Don't let me be an asshole. Don't let anyone yell 'too late'
." [someone in the audience yells out 'too late'.
] "And punish
those who do."
- Seven Dirty Words: The Trope Namer, which has aged surprisingly well. Still, since he first did the routine, one of the seven words, "piss", has become quite acceptable on broadcast television (though it depends on the context; Carlin even said, "It's acceptable to say 'I'm getting pissed off but not 'I'm getting pissed on"), and others are used rarely.
- Seven Minute Lull: He discussed this in a segment about life's little moments. "Right! I know! I know! Well, what I'm gonna do, I'm gonna have my testicles laminated!"
- Signature Style: Like the old adage goes, often imitated but seldom bettered.
- Many of his most famous bits involve a Long List that slowly gets faster and faster as he says it—see "Seven Dirty Words" "Baseball vs. Football" and the end of his rant on "stuff" for examples.
- Silly Walk: Occasionally to mock the struts of the self-important, but Carlin on Campus had several choice absurdities that stood up all on their own.
Sometimes, I go like this. (strikes an awkward pose) And then I wonder why.
- Sir Swears-a-Lot: Made cussing on stage popular.
- Smite Me, O Mighty Smiter: As a part of his routine, he challenged God to strike the audience, then him to death to prove that He exists.
- Society Marches On: Carlin's first two HBO specials had an HBO representative warning viewers that Carlin was going to use naughty language. This, despite HBO being a premium cable service.
- In 1990's Doin' It Again, George is greeted by dog pound calls, which was popularized by the brief late night show hosted by Arsenio Hall.
- Sophisticated as Hell
- The Stoner: The Hippy Dippy Weatherman.
- Subliminal Seduction: Parodied, of course, in the liner notes for his 1990 album Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics:
"This recording contains no backmasking or subliminal suggestions. All messages from the Devil are recorded clearly and audibly in standard American English."
- Testosterone Poisoning: Had a low, low opinion of it.
- That Came Out Wrong: But he was always witty enough to run with it, improvise a joke out of his mistakes. Quite possibly the best example, from It's Bad For Ya, when talking about the perks of getting old:
You can even shit your pants! Haven't tried it yet...but I don't rule it out! I'm keeping my options open. Everything is on the table! [beat
] ... Perhaps that's not the figure of speech I wanted...
- Terrified of Germs: Carlin deliberately tries to defy this trope, as seen in You Are All Diseased.
- Toilet Humor: Not above it. In one show, he said he gave his dog some Cracker Jacks. Later, when he took him outside, "Tippy took a Cracker Jack." (He was anxious to see what the prize was, hoping it wasn't something like a blow whistle.)
- Troll: "Keeping People Alert," from 1988's What Am I Doing in New Jersey?, is a collection of absurd suggestions of ways to keep people on their toes. "Or just walk up to somebody in the street and say, 'Pardon me, I have nothing to say!'" is just the beginning.
- Verbal Tic: He had a tendency to say things twice for emphasis.
- Viewers Are Morons: Most of his comedy was very erudite, but he did like pointing out ignorance sometimes even within his own audience.
- Vulgar Humor: He once Deconstructed the anatomy of his jokes and said that one or both of these tropes were parts of the necessary exaggeration that made the jokes funny rather than just shocking. Knowing just how far to push was his specialty.
- Wham Line: In Doin' It Again, he has a minute and a half rant that demonstrates how "soft" language has gotten, in which he explains a combat condition that was called "Shell Shock" has been renamed "Battle Fatigue", then "Operational Exhaustion", and finally "Post-traumatic Stress Disorder". An audible murmur ripples through the crowd at that point when they suddenly realize what he's been talking about. (See Grammar Nazi above.)
- Worthy Opponent: In Last Words, he mentions that his first solo album was nominated for a Grammy, but lost to Bill Cosby, who he considered a worthy opponent.
- You Bastard: Was not afraid to slam on various groups and interests he hated, and would actually tell his audience the comedic equivalent to this if they actually were this. Most of the audience lapped it up, even if THEY were the target.