Monday, June 23, 2008

R.I.P.: George Carlin (1937-2008)

Despite his occasional co-starring gigs in comedies over his 40-plus years in showbiz, George Carlin never really made much of a mark in movies. Still, I have very fond memories of his inspired comic turn in Kevin Smith’s Dogma as Cardinal Glick, a character I described in my 1999 review as “a media-savvy huckster who's determined to make the Catholic Church more consumer-friendly. As part of an image-enhancement program, the cardinal wants to replace the traditional crucifix (which His Eminence views as, well, kind of creepy) with ‘a new and inspiring symbol’ --- The Buddy Christ, a smiling dude who encourages the faithful with an enthusiastic thumbs-up.” (Carlin also appeared in Smith’s Jersey Girl – but, hey, I never held that against him.)

Ironically, I first became aware of Carlin when he and Richard Pryor were conservatively dressed (i.e., coat and tie), ever-so-polite stand-up comics during their weekly stints on the 1966 Kraft Summer Music Hall hosted by – no, I’m not making this up – John Davidson. (And, boy, do I wish I could see some YouTube clips from that show right now.) I remained amused as he evolved into a hipper (and hippier) comic performer, and even tried to repeat some of his more memorable monologues – Hippie-Dippy Weatherman: “Tonight’s forecast: Dark!” – to high school classmates. I cannot say I ever became a diehard fan – I attended just one of his live shows -- but whenever I did catch up with him over the years, he never failed to make me laugh out loud with his trademark mix of bemused curiosity and blunt-spoken iconoclasm. He’ll be missed.

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