From our files: The nonconforming George Carlin
The irreverent comedian, who died June 22, was interviewed by the Monitor in 1973 after a transitional time for his standup routine in which, he says he had discovered his true character - himself.
From the July 23, 1973 edition of The Christian Science MonitorSkip to next paragraph
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Television is just a place to stop off and tell the world that you're making it without television, according to George Carlin. "It only reflects that you're a success in concerts, records, movies, whatever you do well. You then come on TV to boast about it and maybe offer a little sample."
In this case, the sample is "Monsanto Night Presents the real George Carlin," a TV special which will appear in most major viewing regions sometime in mid-August. To shoot, the comedian is returning to all his old haunts in his native New York City - Columbia University, near where he was born; Grant's Tomb, where he played as a boy; the Bitter End, the kind of club in which he performs best.
He has brought with him Kris Kristofferson, Rita Coolidge, B.B. King - and four air-conditioned trailers. He is chatting in one of the trailers, parked near the Columbia library, where 300 students, hangers-on, and passers-by are waiting for the camera to be repaired so he can perform.
"Let's face it," Mr. Carlin continues. "TV is controlled by government and paid for by private industry. Certainly with that combination the result is bound to be mostly junk. Even with the freedom I was promised on this show, I'm sure I'll only be able to get 50 percent of what I want onto the screen."
'NOTHING BEHIND HIM'
What he wants is for the world to know that there is now a new, "real" George Carlin. When he finally steps out to perform he quickly establishes that fact.
"I'm George Carlin." he said pointing to a cardboard cut-out of the George Carlin of another era. "I used to be this guy. Or maybe this guy used to be me. I liked him. I had a lot of fun. He did a lot for me. But there was nothing behind him. Just surface. I wasn't there. I found out I wasn't in my own act after a while. And I discovered a much better character for me - myself."
As a matter of fact, if you haven't seen George Carlin since the old days - that short-haired, business-suited character with the funny disc-jockey and weatherman routines - you might not even recognize the new George Carlin. He's broomstick-thin with a reddish-brown beard, long hair tied in back with a rubber band, dressed in jeans and T-shirt with a pendant around his neck and an earring in one ear. A man seemingly at ease with his youthful audiences - and with himself.
During the next few days, on the various locations, he talks freely about the changes:
"I've been into myself for two and a half years. Before that I was doing an act which consisted of a series of character sketches for which I served as master of ceremonies.
"It was a period when a lot of people were reevaluating themselves. Consciousness-raising became almost an art form. I tried acting and I found I hated that loss of control. I realized I was a monologist; 'Okay,' I said to myself. 'why not say the things and do the things that are really in your mind and your heart?' Suddenly all my personal observations about life became usable in that context.
'FREEDOM JUST SPILLED OVER'
"And this freedom to be myself on stage just naturally spilled over into my private life, my appearance, my relationships. It was good. Personally and in my career. The result has been that I am far better rewarded in terms of money, following, satisfaction. I'm writing more, a film script, a compendium of funny things...
"Sure, I know that I've been criticized for taking on the physical appearance of a subculture. Anti-hippies keep saying that I'm conforming to another kind of conforming - nonconforming. But the fallacy is that when person leaves a society that forces men to conform under duress and joins a subculture in which brothers tend to conform, it is voluntary conformity. And that's a big, big difference.