George Carlin

Comedian


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

Tab

About
About this interview

In one of his final interviews, George Carlin (1937-2008) revels in his ability to get to the truth in life and society: "Everybody thinks they have rights. And I tell them why they don't have any rights — because your rights can disappear. So they're not rights, they're privileges…. It's fucking make believe, folks. It's like the boogeyman. We made that up. And people, they cling to these things. Not my audience. My audience is glad to hear me get in there with the Rotor Rooter and the deep enema. Cleans the system out. I mean, I love doing this stuff. It's such a joy, god." George Carlin's career as a stand-up comedian was marked by his irreverent material epitomized by his famed comedy routine about the "Seven Dirty Words You Can Never Say on Television." In his three-hour Archive interview, Carlin describes his early comedic talents and how, as a teenager, he would record bits on a tape recorder and play them back for friends. He talks about the influences from the movies (particularly Danny Kaye's films) and early television (such as the variety series Broadway Open House) on his comic sensibilities. He then chronicles his early life through the Air Force, as a disc jockey, and as half of a comedy team with Jack Burns, leading to his first professional appearance on television on Jack Paar's Tonight Show. He notes various "breaks" along the way and talks about going solo, working as a stand-up comedian for several years, before he got back into making television appearances on such programs as The Ed Sullivan Show. He speaks in detail about his infamous "Seven Dirty Words" monologue and the FCC case that resulted from it (filed against WBAI radio, for obscenity), bringing it up-to-date: "Now piss has changed. Piss, interesting development, piss is now okay on television if you're pissed off, but not if you're pissed on. In other words, if you change the preposition you get in trouble. It's all right for me to say to you, 'Why are you pissed off at me?' But you can't say, 'Because you pissed on me.'" He recalls his appearance as the very first host of Saturday Night Live, and discusses how his HBO specials resurrected his career. He touches on his later work as an actor in Kevin Smith's movies and shows including the PBS series Shining Time Station, which earned him two Daytime Emmy nominations as Outstanding Performer in a Children's Series. Henry Colman and Jenni Matz conducted the interview on December 17, 2007 in Venice, CA.

"If they were to write a history of comedy in America in the last third of the 20th Century, they'd have to include me. I just know they can't leave me out. That's what I'd like to be remembered as, someone who made enough of a mark that they can't leave him out."

Highlights
George Carlin on getting to write about the "freak show"
02:08
George Carlin on the origin of his famous routine "Seven Dirty Words"
04:09
George Carlin on the evolution of his comedy
05:27
George Carlin on why he never gets tired of performing his routines
03:03
George Carlin on the advice he would give young comedians
01:28
George Carlin on how he'd like to be remembered: "too hip for the room"
01:18
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his childhood, parents, brother Patrick
10:25
On being heavily influenced by radio in the 1940s and early 1950s
02:37
On early signs of his comedic inclinations; on wanting to be a performer from an early age
02:24
On his recollection of early television in the 1950s; on being influenced by movie star Danny Kaye
05:05
On developing his early routines and imitations; on making a grand plan for his future career as a performer
05:29
On going into the Air Force; on becoming a disc jockey
02:31

Chapter 2

On his career as a disc jocket in Shreveport and at NBC in Boston
03:51
On meeting future comedy partner Jack Burns
04:57
On how comedy changed in the 1950s with Jonathan Winters, Lenny Bruce, Shelley Berman, Mort Sahl, Lord Buckley who "challenged authority"; on leaving for Hollywood
03:24
On his early comedy routines with Jack Burns; on developing his "clean" act of the early 1960s; on recording his first LP; on performing for Lenny Bruce who got him signed in 1960
05:22
On how he and Jack Burns came to perform on the The Tonight Show with Jack Paar, his first network appearance
03:37
On the format of The Tonight Show aka The Jack Paar Show; on his act at the time
04:49
On becoming a solo performer; on his supper club act
04:21

Chapter 3

On Richard Pryor and their parallel careers; on how getting booked on The Merv Griffin Show changed his career
08:43
On a gradual shift in his act; on working as a variety show comedian and becoming dissatisfied with the superficiality of that persona
05:12
On leaving the traditional, mainstream path behind; on finding his voice in the counterculture movement; on changing his onstage persona to match the offstage Carlin; on being caught in the "generational war"
03:16
On how his dramatically changed act happened on television
02:46
On the history of comedy from the court jester to the poet
02:41
On how he felt HBO saved his career with the comedy specials in the 1970s
02:00
On his piece "Modern Man" which he performed on an HBO special; on being influenced by Danny Kaye's use of language
04:06

Chapter 4

On the importance he placed on language; on adapting his act; on being censored by Ed Sullivan's show
04:41
On getting fired from the Copacabana and being relieved to finally leave mainstream comedy
11:00
On the origin of his famous routine "Seven Dirty Words"
04:37
On the Supreme Court decision on the FCC action against his album "Class Clown" 
03:46

Chapter 5

On his "perverse pride" at being quoted in classrooms as well as being censored; on insinuating himself into the American culture
07:14
On his first appearance at Carnegie Hall; on how his fame affected his mother
07:37
On the evolution of his comedy
01:49
On finding his voice on the HBO Specials; on "Carlin at Carnegie"; on the genesis of his material
06:04
On getting to write about the "freak show"
06:32

Chapter 6

On defining himself and his role as an entertainer and a comedian
03:06
George Carlin on hosting the very first Saturday Night Live and his cocaine use
09:10
On how The George Carlin Show came about
04:33
On how he came to appear on Shining Time Station
03:45
On why the HBO specials were such an important format for him
01:49
On his creative process
03:31
On preparing for his then-upcoming HBO special It's Bad for Ya
03:03

Chapter 7

On when he felt he had achieved success; on what success means to him
02:38
On why he believes he's had a successful career
01:47
George Carlin on the advice he would give young comedians: write it down and classify everything
01:28
On how he'd like to be remembered: "too hip for the room"
01:16
Shows

Ed Sullivan Show, The aka Toast of the Town

View Show Page
George Carlin on the material he was forced to censor when appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show
03:29

George Carlin Show, The

View Show Page
George Carlin on how it came about that he got his own television show
03:10

George Carlin Specials

View Show Page
George Carlin talks about finding his voice on the HBO Specials, and specifically on "Carlin at Carnegie"
01:58
George Carlin on why the HBO specials were such an important format for him
05:11
George Carlin on preparing for his then-upcoming HBO special It's Bad for Ya, and why he never gets tired of performing his routines
03:03
George Carlin on how the HBO specials helped contribute to his long career
01:47

Merv Griffin Show, The

View Show Page
George Carlin on his appearances on The Merv Griffin Show and how it changed his career

Saturday Night Live

View Show Page
George Carlin on hosting the very first Saturday Night Live and his cocaine use
04:15

Shining Time Station

View Show Page
George Carlin on how he came to appear on Shining Time Station
03:28

Tonight Starring Jack Paar aka The Jack Paar Show

View Show Page
George Carlin on his first appearance on The Tonight Show in 1960, and on the format of that show
Topics

Censorship / Standards & Practices

View Topic
George Carlin on the material he was forced to censor when appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show
03:29
George Carlin on the origin of his famous routine "Seven Dirty Words"
04:09

Creative Influences and Inspiration

View Topic
George Carlin on the genesis of much of his material
01:40
George Carlin on preparing for his then-upcoming HBO special It's Bad for Ya
00:14
George Carlin on his creative process
03:22

Pivotal Career Moments

View Topic
George Carlin on the genesis of much of his material
01:40
George Carlin on preparing for his then-upcoming HBO special It's Bad for Ya
00:14
George Carlin on his creative process
03:22

Pop Culture

View Topic
George Carlin on the Supreme Court decision on the FCC action against his album "Class Clown" 
03:46

Television Industry

View Topic
George Carlin on the origin of his famous routine "Seven Dirty Words"
04:09
George Carlin on the material he was forced to censor when appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show
03:29
Professions

Comedian

View Profession
George Carlin on getting fired from the Copacabana and being relieved to finally leave mainstream comedy
06:31
George Carlin on the origin of his famous routine "Seven Dirty Words"
04:09
George Carlin on the evolution of his comedy
05:27
George Carlin on getting to write about the "freak show"
02:08
George Carlin on defining himself and his role as an entertainer and a comedian
02:59
George Carlin on his creative process
03:22
George Carlin on why he never gets tired of performing his routines
03:03
George Carlin on advice he gives young comedians: write it down and classify everything
01:28

Performers

View Profession
George Carlin on the origin of his famous routine "Seven Dirty Words"
04:09
George Carlin on getting fired from the Copacabana and being relieved to finally leave mainstream comedy
06:31
George Carlin on getting to write about the "freak show"
02:08
George Carlin on the evolution of his comedy
05:27
George Carlin on why he never gets tired of performing his routines
03:03
George Carlin on why he never gets tired of performing his routines
03:03
George Carlin on defining himself and his role as an entertainer and a comedian
02:59
George Carlin on advice he gives young comedians: write it down and classify everything
01:28
Genres

Late Night

View Genre
George Carlin on the material he was forced to censor when appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show
03:29

Music Shows & Variety Shows/Specials

View Genre
George Carlin on how the HBO specials helped contribute to his long career
01:47
People

Steve Allen

View Interview Page
George Carlin on how his dramatically changed act from mainstream to counterculture voice happened on television on such shows as Steve Allen's Tonight Show, and how Steve encouraged him

Lenny Bruce

View Person Page
George Carlin on impersonating Lenny Bruce in front of the comedian who wound up getting Carlin signed to an agency

Danny Kaye

View Person Page
George Carlin on being influenced by Danny Kaye as a child in the 1940s
08:02
George Carlin on his hero, Danny Kaye

All Interviews

Q
S