Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Class Clown's 75th Birthday

I first became aware of George Carlin when I was about 12 years old, and I heard the "Class Clown" album for the first time.

Most people will probably tell you that the thing they remember most from that album is Carlin's brilliant routine on language, "Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television."

There was great humor to be found in that routine — on many levels. I have often mused about how Carlin would respond if he could come back sometime in the (near?) future and discover that the seven words he was prohibited from saying on television were so commonplace that they evoked no response at all.

He might find that the brilliance of his routine had no relevance, anymore. If that routine, which evoked such outrage in some corners and such amusement in others during Carlin's life, had been reduced to quaint, I think Carlin would be pleased.

And make no mistake. It was brilliant — and timeless, even if, at some point in the future, it is regarded as quaint.

But so was the stuff he said about children and the class show–offs they encounter in school. Sometimes, I was the class clown in my small–town Southern school. Other times, it was someone else. We must have had some sort of unspoken agreement. We each had our special talents, and we each shared them with our classmates at different times.

Most of the time, I guess it really was as simple as Carlin said it was: "You'd be bored and, you'd figure, well, why not deprive someone else of their education? And you would set about disrupting the class by ATTRACTING ATTENTION TO YOURSELF! That is the name of this job, you know? It's called, DIG ME!"

So I could relate to the things he said about classmates who could "belch at will" or turn their upper eyelids inside out. (Frankly, I didn't really get most of the rest of the humor on the album until I was older.)

George Carlin provided me with lots of laughs over the years. It's hard to believe, but, if he was still with us, the Class Clown would be 75 years old today. I've missed him since he died nearly four years ago. I had grown accustomed to a new album every other year or so and fresh, new nuggets of Carlin's humor to enjoy.

The old stuff is still good, but, regrettably, it is all we have now.