The Beautifully Enraged George (1988-1997)
"It's not anger. Angry is getting into a fistfight, which I've never done. Angry is losing your temper and regretting it. People who have been around me for 20 minutes or 20 years will tell you they've never seen me angry. Now I can get irritated like anyone else -- in traffic, on a slow line in a store, at a dumb clerk. Hey, that's natural, especially when you're an efficient human being and you like things to go properly. But angry? Not me. [...] It's dissatisfaction and disappointment."
- George Carlin, October 2005 Playboy interview
"The noisier the culture becomes, the stronger your voice has to be, to be heard above the din. This was a conscious thought -- that I'd better raise the level of my voice and therefore the intensity of my metaphors and images and words and topics to get and keep people's attention. There was another reason to turn up the volume. There was a comedy boom in full swing during the eighties. I was always being told about the hot new guy or the hot new woman.
Then one of three things happens. Either: "No threat! No fucking threat at all!"
Or: "This guy is really good. But he's not on my block. So no threat either."
Sam Kinison was a "WHOOOA!"
When he started catching fire in the second half of the eighties I remember saying to myself: I'm going to have to raise my voice. [...] Without wanting to wipe him out, I had to raise my level to where I wasn't lost in his dust. Be smarter. Be louder. Be on my fucking toes. And though the general proliferation of comedians presented no threat either, the sheer numbers that were happening, the sheer fact that there was a comedy boom, was a spur. You have to run a little faster, show 'em why you're out in front. It's not the accumulated credits, George, not the years you've put in. It's what you do last week."
- George Carlin, Last Words
- Reagan's Gang, Church People, and American Values [11:08]
- Keeping People Alert [11:10]
- People I Can Do Without [3:50]
- More Stuff on Cars & Driving [21:37]:
- A) Intro & Toll Booths [2:30]
- B) New Jersey & License Plates [3:25]
- C) Bumper Stickers [1:00]
- D) Baby on Board [2:11]
- E) Red Lights & Tickets [3:34]
- F) Joggers & Bicycles [1:43]
- G) The Other Cars [7:14]
- Open [5:05]
- People I Can Do Without [5:02]
- Reagan's Gang [6:52]
- American Values [5:03]
- Keeping People Alert [11:07]
- More Stuff on Cars and Driving [21:51]
- Singles Bars [1:50]
- End Credits [1:08]
What Am I Doing In New Jersey? (1988)
HBO special and album
Recorded March 25-26, 1988 at the Park Performing Arts Center in Union City, NJ
Released June 9, 1988 (or August 15?)
Mastered at Warner Amigo, L.A. Editing by Mike Stone at Record Plant, L.A.
Art direction: Bob Defrin. Photography: Marty Umans.
When it comes to casual fans of George Carlin, I've noticed that many of them tend to fall into two different camps: the casual fans who really only like Carlin's older material and are turned-off by his later "angrier" stuff, and the casual fans who absolutely love that later angrier stuff. Often I see these two groups of people leaving either 1-star or 5-star reviews, respectively, on sites like Amazon.
I use "angrier" here in quotes because as shown at the top of the page, Carlin didn't necessarily see it as anger. Some people may feel there are better words to describe this style of his: more "serious", or more "social commentator" style, or what have you. In any case, there was a change in his style, and when I say "the angry years" most people know what sort of stuff I'm talking about. If I had to pick one album that marked the real beginning of this era, it would be What Am I Doing In New Jersey?. If anything, for the "Reagan's Gang" track alone, a ruthless but focused rant that was really unlike anything he had ever done before. Carlin confirmed this in the biography Last Words, saying "The 1988 HBO show, What Am I Doing In New Jersey?, was the first use of the stored armaments, the first time that this newfound attention to structure met up with a heightened political sense."
I've seen some clueless Bill Hicks worshipers on YouTube claim that this change in Carlin's style was due to Bill Hicks, but it wasn't. See the quotation at the top of the page, then read the whole chapter ("I Get Pissed, Goddamit!", a line taken from this album), and hear Carlin's interview with Jon Stewart.
I've seen two different release dates listed for What Am I Doing In New Jersey?. I'm guessing that the video was aired on June 9, and the album released on August 15, but I'm not sure. The album was nominated for a Grammy in 1989, but lost to Robin Williams' Good Morning, Vietnam.
The video version ends on the "Singles Bars" routine, which showed up years later on You Are All Diseased. In an interview, Carlin explained that he hadn't planned on doing that for the New Jersey special; he just realized that he had 2 minutes left after finishing his main show, and decided at the last moment to do it.
There are two quotations in the album's liner notes: "This life is but a doomed journey of misery and loneliness, punctuated by moments of suffering, and ending in total annihilation" (Zippy), and "Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes" (Thoreau).
Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics
- Offensive Language [4:48]
- I Ain't Afraid of Cancer [1:59]
- Some People Are Stupid [2:28]
- Rape Can Be Funny [3:52]
- Feminist Blowjob [7:28]
- Good Ideas [2:29]
- Things You Never See [1:02]
- Things You Never Hear [0:58]
- Things You Don't Wanna Hear [2:16]
- Life's Little Moments [3:59]
- I Love My Dog [7:03]
- Organ Donor Programs [1:19]
- Don't Pull the Plug on Me [1:31]
- They're Only Words [2:49]
- Euphemisms [9:48]
Doin' It Again (DVD chapters)
- Introduction [2:33]
- Offensive Language [5:10]
- Life's Little Moments [4:36]
- I Love My Dog [7:13]
- I Ain't Afraid of Cancer [4:23]
- Rape Can Be Funny [4:00]
- Feminists [6:51]
- Good Ideas [2:57]
- Things You Never See [1:14]
- Things You Never Hear [1:21]
- Things You Don't Want To Hear [2:16]
- Organ Donor Programs [1:29]
- Don't Pull The Plug On Me [2:16]
- They're Only Words [2:25]
- Euphemisms [9:40]
- End Credits [1:01]
Doin' It Again (1990)
Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics (1990)
HBO special and album
Eardrum Records / Atlantic Recording Corporation / Wea International
Recorded January 12-13, 1990 at The State Theater in New Brunswick, NJ.
Released November 20, 1990.
Winner of 1990 Cable Ace award
Doin' It Again was the name of Carlin's 1990 HBO special. When the same routines were released as an album, the album was called Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics. Even though I had known about Carlin's work for several years up to this point, it was around this time that I seriously started to get into him as more than just a casual fan, making the effort to seek out and buy his albums and videos, just as I would for a favorite band.
The album comes with the following warning on the back:
NOTICE: This recording contains no backmasking or subliminal suggestions. All messages from the Devil are recorded clearly and audibly in straightforward Standard American English.
PLEASE! Try not to commit suicide after listening to this album.
Also included are two quotations, "America is like a melting pot. The people at the bottom get burned, and the scum floats to the top." (Charlie King), and "Never let them make you crawl." (John Dillinger).
About this recording, George Carlin said the following in Last Words:
"The 1990 and 1992 HBO show were where things really gelled. 1990 was the first time that the improvement in my new strengths in writing met up solidly with my heightened political sense. It wasn't a Jammin' in New York, but it was a good step beyond what had happened in '88, as '88 had been beyond '86. One reason may have been [...] We'd finally discovered not to do HBO shows on the West Coast. Californian audiences just sit there trying to decide whether they're going to go to the beach tomorrow or Magic Mountain. Not a lot of concentrated energy in a Los Angeles audience."
When I was in the eighth grade, rumor had it that a universal warning label was going to be applied on any and all albums deemed to have "Explicit Lyrics". Some rumors extended that to a ban of these albums all together. This was a few years before the whole trial of 2 Live Crew; all that shit had yet to go down. This was however one of those things that traced back to the efforts of Tipper Gore and the PMRC. I led a few other middle schoolers in petitions going in an effort to top this, and getting as many students to sign as we could. My older friends in the high schools did the same. I created petition sheets at home on my father's photocopy machine. As socially divided as the rap fans and headbangers were at this time, here was one cause we could both agree on. Would the petitions really go anywhere? Would signatures from people who weren't even old enough to get a drivers' license, really matter? Be effective? No. But I sure didn't think that at the time.
Regardless, the world got stuck with the standard warning sticker you see today. As you can see, Carlin realized that if he was going to be required to put the sticker on the album, he might as well make the whole cover and title the sticker.
The video release was first on VHS, with the white background cover. It was later re-released on DVD, paired as a double feature with Jammin' In New York. Then it was re-released on DVD with an older picture of George on the cover.
The album was nominated for a Grammy in 1992, but lost to Peter Schickele's P.D.Q. Bach: WTWP Classical Talkity-Talk Radio.
- Rockets and Penises in the Persian Gulf [7:35]
- Little Things We Share [7:47]
- Airline Announcements [16:44]
- Golf Courses for the Homeless [11:13]
- The Planet Is Fine [13:37]
HBO special (DVD chapters):
- Opening [0:53]
- Rockets and Penises in the Persian Gulf [7:39]
- Little Things We Share [7:48]
- Airline Announcements [17:21]
- Not in My Backyard [8:01]
- Golf Courses for the Homeless [2:56]
- The Water Sucks [6:23]
- The Planet Is Fine [6:27]
- End Credits [0:56]
Jammin' In New York (1992)
HBO special and album
Eardrum Records / Atlantic Recording Corporation / Wea International Inc.
Recorded April 25, 1992 at the Paramount Theater, Madison Square Garden, NYC
Location Sound: Terry Kulchar. Mastered by Ken Perry at A&M Master. Editing: Mike Stone. Art Direction: Kevin Design Hosmann. Front Cover Photography: Patrick Harbron.
In Last Words, Carlin states, "Jammin' In New York has always been my favorite HBO show, but it was more than just a favorite. It lifted me up to a new plateau, a good plateau. It became my personal best, the one I had to beat, the template for future HBOs in terms of craft, artistry and risk taking."
Carlin also said that the album was dedicated to Sam Kinison, even though this doesn't appear on the liner notes (Kinison had died just 15 days prior to the recording).
The performance manages to break down into just 5 particular topics: a comedy commentary piece on US war politics and history, some of Carlin's signature observational humor, a routine on the language of airline travel (as I've said before, jokes about airplane riding has become a predictable thing for hack stand-ups, but Carlin's take on the topic is original and, most importantly, funny), a rant on golf and what it symbolizes, and finally a response to the growing environmental movement at the time.
The back of the CD also includes one of Carlin's quotes that later appeared in Brain Droppings: "There are nights when the wolves are silent and only the moon howls."
This album won the Grammy (FINALLY!) in 1994 for Best Comedy Album.
Personal Favorites (1996)
HBO special (compilation)
This was a 1996 HBO special comprising of personal favorite clips from Carlin's past HBO specials, chosen by himself. It was eventually released on DVD.
The DVD chapters are:
- Hats On [2:41], a new introduction where Carlin tries on various crazy hats and gives various one-liners
- Hitler [0:29], from Carlin at Carnegie
- Hello Goodbye [6:36], from Playin' With Your Head
- Al Sleet [1:56], from George Carlin: Again!
- Stuff [5:09], from HBO's first edition of Comic Relief (1986)
- Baseball Football [4:48], this appears to have been cut from Doin' It Again
- Dirty Words [2:59], from Carlin at Carnegie
- Earrings [5:26], from Playin' With Your Head
- Have A Nice Day [3:50], from Carlin at Carnegie
- Dog Incident [2:17], from On Location
- Fussy Eater [2:57], from Carlin at Carnegie
- Kids [6:13], from On Location
- Odds & Ends [0:28], from Carlin at Carnegie
- We Like War [2:57], from What Am I Doing In New Jersey?
- It's Not A Sport [10:03], from Playin' With Your Head
- Program Credits [0:48]
- Abortion [8:41]
- Sanctity of Life [3:49]
- Capital Punishment [8:40]
- State Prison Farms [8:13]
- Farting in Public [3:00]
- Familiar Expressions [9:14]
- Free-Floating Hostility [19:30]:
[ a) Quote Marks in the Air, b) Badda-Boom, Badda-Bing, c) Bad Hair Day, d) I Heard That, e) My Needs Aren't Being Met, f) Mickey Mouse's Birthday, g) The Two Pandas in the Zoo, h) Sperm/Egg-Donors, etc., i) Innocent Victims, j) Personal Bottles of Water, k) Women with Hyphenated Names, l) Telephone Calling Plans, m) Motivation Tapes/Books, n) One-Hour Photo Finishing, o) Too Many Vehicles, p) Backwards Baseball Hats, q) Earrings on Men, r) Colored Ribbons, s) Christian Athletes and Voices in One's Head, t) Aftershave and Cologne, u) Cowboy Hats and Cowboy Boots, v) Assholes with Camcorders, w) Whining Baby Boomers, x) In Defense of Politicians, y) Why I Don't Vote ]
HBO special (DVD chapters):
- Abortion [9:14]
- Sanctity of Life [3:51]
- Capital Punishment [8:35]
- State Prison Farms [8:21]
- Farting in Public [2:55]
- Familiar Expressions [9:15]
- Free-Floating Hostility [19:49]
- End Credits [0:42]
Back In Town (1996)
HBO special and album
Eardrum Records / Atlantic Recording Corporation / Wea International Inc.
Recorded on March 30, 1996 at the Beacon Theater, NY.
Produced by George Carlin. Location sound by Terry Kulchar. Edited by Mike Stone. Mastered by Steve Hall at Future Disc Systems, Inc., Los Angeles CA. Saxophone solo: Klem Klimeck. Art direction and design by Benjamin Niles. Back cover photography by Mike Albans, NY Daily News. Live Photography by Patrick Harbron. Other artwork from the personal collection of George Carlin.
You'll notice a 4 year gap between this album and the previous one. This was largely because of Carlin's commitments to The George Carlin Show and Shining Time Station. He still toured around the US doing stand-up during that time, though.
Regarding Back In Town, the album's back cover included the following message: "Here's what I want you to know about this album: It's the best writing and performing I've done in thirty-six years. I said that about my last album, "Jammin' In New York," and it was true. But this is better. Somehow, in the last six years, I finally learned how to do this shit. I hope you enjoy it. -- George."
I was in college at this time, where I didn't really watch any cable TV. So I didn't know about this HBO special at all until I happened to see the CD in the stores, shortly after it was released. I had however seen Carlin do most of the routines when I saw him live around 1995. At that show, I remember him ending the entire set with the line "And fuck everybody, now that I think of it."
Carlin opens the performance with his classic line, "Why is it that most of the people who are against abortion, are people you wouldn't want to fuck in the first place?" He's used this line (or slight variations of it) a number of times over the years. It showed up on his 1981 album A Place For My Stuff, then in Carlin At Carnegie, and in 1988 in What Am I Doing In New Jersey?. However, this time it prefaces a whole routine about abortion and abortion laws.
The liner notes include some miscellaneous lines:
- "We must view with profound respect the infinite capacity of the human mind to resist the introduction of useful knowledge." - Thomas Raynesford Lounsbury (American scholar and educator, 1938-1915)
- facilities for the handicapped located on the ballroom level
- Annie McGriff, She gave me the siff.
- Angela Knapp. I gave her the clap.
- Every day I beat my own previous record for the number of consecutive days I've stayed alive.
George Carlin: 40 Years of Comedy (1997)
First aired February 27, 1997
Released in 2018 as part of the Commemorative Collection box set
This was a celebration of Carlin's 40 years of comedy work (Carlin had started in radio in 1956). Features include a 15-minute compilation of samples from his past HBO specials, an interview conducted by Jon Stewart, and Carlin performing a few new routines. The new material included an early version of his routines on business lingo and then religion, both of which would later show up in You Are All Diseased, and some new stories about Carlin's pets. The whole special was about 50 minutes in length.
This was the single HBO special of Carlin's which remained unreleased for many years. It was only in 2018 that it finally got released as part of the Commemorative Collection box set.
CD tracks for the audio book
- pxi-xii: Preface
- p42, p4-7: Air Pollution, Seven Things I'm Tired Of
- p13-14: Food Terms
- p16-20: Well Ya Gotta Live Some Place
- p29: Things you never see (puppet, etc.) p29
- p21-23: A Name By Any Other Name
- p24-26: A Name By Any Other Name [continued, mixed order]
- p44-45: Book Club (#1, "How-To" Titles)
- p29-33: "It's Your Body" Tattoos, birthmarks, fashion skin cancer, etc.
- p36: I Can't Recall
- p36-42: A Place for my Stuff
- p42-44: Mental Brain Thoughts
- p107-108: The New Zodiac
- p49-50: "Hi Mom!"
- p50-53: Baseball And Football
- p108: Give a Hoot
- p62-63: Sports Roundup [excerpt]
- p63-64: Fuck you, I like these kind of Jokes!
- p64-65: "Let's Beat Them With Our Purses"
- p66-67: Do, Take, Have, Give
- p106: What's My Motivation?
- p110-113: Anything But The Present
- p150-156: The Primitive Sergeant
- p241: Moths and Lights
- short takes (misc)
- p115-119: If I Were In Charge of the Networks
- p119-121: If I Were In Charge of the Networks [continued]
- p106-107: Book Club(#2, Advice and Self-Help Titles)
- p123-124: Super-Celeb Kicks Bucket
- p122: The "Pre-" Epidemic
- p135-138: Popular Beliefs
- p122-123: More Favorite Oxymorons
- p217-219: Rules to Live By
- p129-132: Expressions I Question
- p139-140: More Favorite Redundancies
- p182-185: Peace On You
- p140-144: Watch Your Mouth
- p185: Come Back And See Us, Hear?
- p223-226: First I Was A Kid
- short takes (misc)
- p258: Killer Comic
Brain Droppings (1997)
Book - Hyperion Publishing
Audio Book - High Bridge Audio (2CD), Audible.com
Brain Droppings was George Carlin's first "real" book, if you don't count his 1984 color-paged book Sometimes a Little Brain Damage Can Help. I saw Carlin perform live sometime before the book came out, and he mentioned the up-coming release of it. He made it clear that it was not an auto-biography ("That shit comes later."), but a book that would include all new material, aside from the "Stuff" routine, and "Baseball and Football".
In reality, the book includes other material which had shown up on his previous albums, such as "The Book Club", "Killer Comic" (part of "Death and Dying"), and a few shorter things. But most of the book was still brand new. Some routines also made their way into HBO specials in the years that followed, including a bit about sun worship which ended up in You Are All Diseased.
Besides being released on hardcover and paperback, a pocket-sized edition of excerpts was published called "The Best of Brain Droppings".
Carlin recorded an audio version of the book, released on two CDs in 2000. It won the Grammy in 2001 for Best Comedy Album. The audio book however is only an abridged version. As far as I know, no unabridged version exists (though I would love to be proven wrong about that!). I've listed the track names on the right. I also took the time to look up which pages of the book these excerpts were from, which also makes it easy to see what parts of the book have been left out.
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