Say the word, and comedian expounds
Contrary to statements running rampant on the Internet, the comedian isn't the author of an essay titled 'Paradox of Our Times.'
By DEBORA SHAULIS
Watch your language when speaking to George Carlin.
As if the man who developed a comedy routine about "Seven Words You Can Never Say on TV" would be offended by an off-color remark.
It's the relevance of one's words that must be minded in the presence of Carlin, a linguist at heart.
Go ahead. Ask Carlin if he's talked so much about an issue that he's beginning to sound like a broken record.
"Now there's an interesting figure of speech, 'broken record,'" Carlin said during a recent telephone call from Las Vegas.
"I want to point something out, because I'm going to do something about this someday on a piece. We have figures of speech that are outmoded technologically. We have things that we say -- 'get up a good head of steam.' There are no steam engines anymore. ...
"My point is this: First of all, a broken record does not repeat itself. It's broken. You can't play it at all; it's broken. A cracked record, or a record with a scratch on it, might repeat a groove over and over again and give you the effect of this thing we call 'sounds like a broken record.' I've always been bothered by the inexactness of that, first of all. And secondly, now, there ought to be a new technological way to say that. It ought to be something about digital mixing, or -- I don't even know the words, because it's not my realm anymore. But there ought to be a different way."
Nitpicky? Nah. "I like keeping track of how we change what we call things because of technology and time," Carlin said.
It's Carlin's cockeyed, analytical view of the world that has earned him praise, criticism and three Grammys in his 42-year career. (He's up for another Grammy later this month, in the Best Spoken Comedy Album category, for his book-on-tape "Napalm & amp; Sillyputty.")
Not his: Watch also what you attribute to Carlin. He refutes jokes and writings that are circulating the Internet with his name on them.
One is called "Paradox of Our Times." The author -- whoever he is -- writes about contradictions of modern life. It begins: "The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints."
Carlin doesn't like "Paradox." He described it as "kind of a sappy, warm and fuzzy, touchy-feely kind of thing.
"That kind of philosophy, that kind of thinking, it's very kitschy. It's very low-rent, cracker-barrel philosophy. It's not very deep. I don't even care about those facts. There are other ways to say that a little more provocatively, and be a little more inflammatory, than just to say that."
He's also been connected to an Internet essay titled "I Am a Bad American." "This is one that could have come right out of Ted Nugent. It's more my tone of things, but my values aren't in there on every single item," he said.
His own Web site: Carlin isn't angry, just annoyed and confused as to why someone would wrongly give him credit. When he realized that the situation was beyond his control, he decided to address the issue on his thorough, attractive Web site (www.georgecarlin.com).
Carlin has been very involved in the creation and maintenance of his Web site. That may change.
"I don't get much satisfaction in that," he said. "I get a lot of satisfaction out of writing the books and doing my concerts. ... This other thing feels one-sided. I don't get a feeling back. I mean, naturally with the book, I don't get it directly, anyway. But I get people in airports, in hotel lobbies and on the street who mention the book, talk about something they like in it, get me to sign it, whatever. So I have an experience with the book. But this other thing is kind of like just put it out there and you never hear anything about it. And I was very, very hands-on. I'm just thinking of maybe changing that because I'd like to save my energy and my time, my creative time, for the things that feel like there's process going on."