Stuff that Carlin DID say
Despite all the bogus George Carlin quotations floating around the internet, there are of course plenty of real ones too. Unfortunately, people rarely ever supply the precise source of the quotation ( the name of the Carlin album, or book, or HBO special, etc. that the words are taken from), making it difficult for casual Carlin fans to distinguish a fake quote from a real quote. Sometimes the wording of a quotation is significantly off, too. Most of the time I'm able to immediately recognize a genuine Carlin quote when I see one and tell you where it's from, but other times I need to do some digging to verify it.
Now obviously I can't give you every quotable Carlin line on this page, so here I'm mostly focusing on some of the more popular Carlin quotes that show up on the internet (to make it easier to verify a genuine quote when you see one), and a few personal favorites. I've also added some pictures I made myself for sharing on Facebook. Feel free to download these pics and upload them (unedited of course) to Facebook, Tumblr, wherever. I'll update this page now and then with more additions.
From Brain Droppings (1997):
- People say, "I'm going to sleep now," as if it were nothing. But it's really a bizarre activity. "For the next several hours, while the sun is gone, I'm going to become unconscious, temporarily losing command over everything I know and understand. When the sun returns, I will resume my life." If you didn't know what sleep was, and you had only seen it in a science fiction movie, you would think it was weird and tell all your friends about the movie you'd seen. "They had these people, you know? And they would walk around all day and be OK? And then, once a day, usually after dark, they would lie down on these special platforms and become unconscious. They would stop functioning almost completely, except deep in their minds they would have adventures and experiences that were completely impossible in real life. As they lay there, completely vulnerable to their enemies, their only movements were to occasionally shift from one position to another; or, if one of the 'mind adventures' got too real, they would sit up and scream and be glad they weren't unconscious anymore. Then they would drink a lot of coffee." So, next time you see someone sleeping, make believe you're in a science fiction movie. And whisper, "The creature is regenerating itself." (Z-Z-Z-Z-Z-Z-Z-Z-Z-Z, p46-47)
- "Not only do I not know what's going on, I wouldn't know what to do about it if I did." (p70)
- "Some see the glass a half-empty, some see the glass as half-full. I see the glass as too big." (p72)
- "If you love someone, set them free; if they come home, set them on fire." (p72)
- [later credited to "Anonymous"] "Those who dance are considered insane by those who can't hear the music." (p74)
- I think this is the only quotation I have on both the "real" quotes and "fake" quotes page! That's because it is a "real" Carlin quotation in so far as it shows up in Brain Droppings as being his own words, but Carlin later attributed it to "Anonymous" in the preface to Napalm & Silly Putty. I'm guessing that he liked the line, then later realized he had heard it from somebody else. It's NOT from Nietzsche, as many people claim. See the entry on the bogus quotations page for details.
- "I recently went to a new doctor and noticed he was located in something called the Professional Building. I felt better right away." (p76)
- "You can't fight City Hall, but you can goddamn sure blow it up." (p76)
- "Jesus was a cross-dresser." (p76)
- "In comic strips, the person on the left always speaks first." (p77)
- "When someone is impatient and says, "I haven't got all day," I always wonder, How can that be? How can you not have all day?" (p77)
- "At a formal dinner party, the person nearest death should always be seated closest to the bathroom." (p80)
- "There are nights when the wolves are silent, and only the moon howls." (p81)
- "If we could just find out who's in charge, we could kill him." (p82)
- "The word bipartisan usually means some larger-than-usual deception is being carried out." (p82)
- "The reason they call it the American Dream is because you have to be asleep to believe it." (p83)
- "If the Cincinnati Reds were really the first major league baseball team, who did they play?" (p86)
- "If Helen Keller had psychic ability, would you say she had a fourth sense?" (p89)
- "The other night I ate at a real nice family restaurant. Every table had an argument going." (p94)
- "Think off-center." (p95)
- "'ONE THING LEADS TO ANOTHER'. Not always. Sometimes one thing leads to the same thing. Ask an addict." (p95)
- "I don't believe there's any problem in this country, no matter how tough it is, that Americans, when they roll up their sleeves, can't completely ignore." (p98)
- "I like it when a flower or a little tuft of grass grows through a crack in the concrete. It's so fuckin' heroic." (p100)
- "Instead of school busing and prayer in schools, which are both controversial, why not a joint solution? Prayer in buses. Just drive these kids around all day and let them pray their fuckin' empty little heads off." (p102)
- "People think life is real complicated. Actually, there's nothing to it. Once you leave out all the bullshit they teach you in school, life gets really simple." (p177)
- "No one can ever know for sure what a deserted area looks like." (p187)
- "The status quo always sucks" (p188)
- "Meow means woof in cat." (p191)
- "People love to admit that they have bad handwriting or that they can't do math. And they will readily admit to being awkward: "I'm such a klutz!" But they will never admit to having a poor sense of humor or being a bad driver." (p193)
- "E-I-E-I-O is actually a gross misspelling of the word farm." (p193)
- "If you can't beat them, arrange to have them beaten." (p193)
- "Some people see things that are and ask, Why? Some people dream of things that never were and ask, Why not? Some people have to go to work and don't have time for all that shit." (p198)
- "Beethoven was so hard of hearing he thought he was a painter." (p198)
- "What year did Jesus think it was?" (p199)
- "George Washington's brother was the Uncle of Our Country." (p201)
- "Honesty may be the best policy, but itís important to remember that apparently, by elimination, dishonesty is the second best policy. Second is not all that bad." (p205)
- "Most people work just hard enough not to get fired and get paid just enough money not to quit." (p206)
- "Always do whatever's next." (p215)
From Napalm and Silly Putty:
- "You know an odd feeling? Sitting on the toilet eating a chocolate candy bar." (p11)
- "Instead of warning pregnant women not to drink, I think female alcoholics ought to be told not to fuck." (p32)
- "By and large, language is a tool for concealing the truth." (p45)
- "You know the good part about all those executions in Texas? Fewer Texans." (p46)
- "If it's true that our species is alone in the universe, then I'd have to say the universe aimed rather low and settled for very little." (p59)
- "When I hear a person talking about political solutions, I know I am not listening to a serious person." (p70)
- "The reason I talk to myself is that I'm the only one whose answers I accept." (p100)
- "Most people don't know what they're doing, and a lot of them are really good at it." (p117)
- "When you step on the brakes your life is in your foot's hands." (p126)
- "Dusting is a good example of the futility of trying to put things right. As soon as you dust, the fact of your next dusting has already been established." (p128)
- "When Thomas Edison worked late into the night on the electric light, he had to do it by gas lamp or candle. I'm sure it made the work seem that much more urgent." (p128)
- "When you think about it, attention deficit disorder makes a lot of sense. In this country there isn't a lot worth paying attention to." (p128)
- "The Golden Gate Bridge should have a long bungee cord for people who aren't quite ready to commit suicide, but want to get in a little practice." (p141)
- "I think people should be allowed to do anything they want. We haven't tried that for a while. Maybe this time it'll work." (p158)
- "Standing ovations have become far too commonplace. What we need are ovations where the audience members all punch and kick one another." (p169)
- "I'm always relieved when someone is delivering a eulogy and I realize I'm listening to it." (p170)
- "I think it would be interesting if old people got anti-Alzheimer's disease where they slowly began to recover other people's lost memories.." (p170)
- "Electricity is just organized lightning." (p170)
- "The IQ and the life expectancy of the average American recently passed each other going in opposite directions" (p172)
- "I think everyone should treat one another in a Christian manner. I will not, however, be responsible for the consequences." (p177)
- "I never worry that all hell will break loose. My concern is that only part of hell will break loose and be much harder to detect." (p189)
- "I think I am, therefore, I am. I think." (p209, back cover too)
- "I don't have a fear of heights. I do, however, have a fear of falling from heights." (p210)
From When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops?:
- And what exactly is the free world, anyway? I guess it would depend on what you consider the non-free world. And I canít find a clear definition of that, can you? Where is that? Russia? China? For chrissakes, Russia has a better Mafia than we do now, and China is pirating Lion King DVDs and selling dildos on the Internet. They sound pretty free to me. Here are some more jingoistic variations you need to be on the lookout for: The greatest nation on Earth; the greatest nation in the history of the world; and the most powerful nation on the face of the Earth. That last one is usually thrown in just before we bomb a bunch of brown people. Which is every couple of years.
- "Politician Talk #3: Senator Patriot Speaks", p82)
- "I'm never critical or judgmental about whether or not a movie is any good. The way I look at it, if several hundred people got together every day for a year or so -- a number of then willing to put on heavy makeup, wear clothes that weren't their own and pretend to be people other than themselves -- and their whole purpose for doing all this was to entertain me, then I'm not gonna start worrying about whether or not they did a good job. The effort alone was enough to make me happy."
- "Roll 'Em", p106
- I think the warning labels on alcoholic beverages are too bland. They should be more vivid. Here are a few I would suggest: "Alcohol will turn you into the same asshole your father was."; "Drinking will significantly improve your chances of murdering a loved one."; "If you drink long enough, at some point you will vomit up the lining of your stomach."; "Use this product and you may wake up in Morocco wearing a cowboy suit and tongue-kissing a transmission salesman."
- "Drink Up", p141
- I've never seen a homeless guy with a bottle of Gatorade. (p154)
- A good motto to live by: "Always try not to get killed." (p213)
- "Here's all you have to know about men and women: women are crazy, men are stupid. And the main reason women are crazy is that men are stupid. It's not the only reason, but it's a big one." (p22)
- This line is from part 1 of a long piece called "Guys & Dolls". It was a mix of both male-bashing and female-bashing. Funny though how people only quote the two first sentences here.
- "I don't like ass kissers, flag wavers or team players. I like people who buck the system. Individualists. I often warn people: "Somewhere along the way, someone is going to tell you, 'There is no "I" in team.' What you should tell them is, 'Maybe not. But there is an "I" in independence, individuality and integrity.'" Avoid teams at all cost. Keep your circle small. Never join a group that has a name. If they say, "We're the So-and-Sos," take a walk. And if, somehow, you must join, if it's unavoidable, such as a union or a trade association, go ahead and join. But don't participate; it will be your death. And if they tell you you're not a team player, congratulate them on being observant."
- A piece titled "Teams Suck!"
From Last Words:
- Virginia Graham had a terrific show, which I guested four or five times. She was a great character. Didn't give a shit about what people thought and loved to stir things up. She was always saying sweetly, "Let's you two fight" -- in other words: "Why don't you two guests of mine rip each other to shreds?" I did once. I ripped up Representative Bob Dornan, the red-headed maniac from Orange County, when he'd just become a congressman. He talked about "these hippies desecrating the flag" and "the violence of people who are blow up math buildings" and protested about protesters getting violent. So I called him on it: "Wait a minute. A flag is supposed to represent everything that a country does. It doesn't only represent the good things. If you burn the flag, you're burning the flag for what you perceive to be the bad things the country has done. It's only a symbol. It's only a piece of cloth."
- From "The Long Ephiphany", p145. Sometimes I see the following words added to the end: "I see them as symbols, and I leave symbols to the symbol-minded", but that line came 20 years later from Jammin' In New York.
From FM & AM:
- "Tonight's forecast: DARK. Continued mostly dark tonight, turning to widely scattered light in the morning" (The 11 O'Clock News)
- Carlin did quite a few variations on the Al Sleet routine over the years, including the track from this album, the On Location With George Carlin HBO special, his Take-Offs and Put-Ons album, and a number of television appearances in the 1960s. For a long time I heard this as "wildly" and not "widely", and some sites quote it as "wildly". Listening more closely to this particular track though, my guess is that it's "widely".
From Class Clown (1972):
- "Oh, beautiful, for smoggy skies and insecticided grain. For stripped-mined mountains majesty, above the asphault plain. America, America, man sheds his waste on thee. And hides the pines with billboard signs, from sea to oily sea." (Muhammad Ali / America The Beautiful)
- I've had a number of people write in to ask me if this was authentic, because Carlin of course isn't really known for song parodies. So I can't say that I blame the people who suspected it was a fake. It is, however, authentic. Carlin sings this on the Class Clown album. It also shows up on the 40 Years of Comedy HBO special.
From George Carlin: Again! (1978):
- "There's no 'now'. Everything is the near future or the recent past!" (What Time is It?)
- A variation on this also showed up later in Napalm & Silly Putty, p164-165 ("Everything we think of as "now" is either the very recent past or the very near future. There's no present. "Welcome to the present." ZOOM! Gone again!")
From On The Road (1979):
- "The Food and Drug Administration has announced that saliva causes stomach cancer. However, only when swallowed in small amounts over a long period of time." (Headlines)
- For some reason, this gets misquoted often on the internet as "Death is caused by swallowing small amounts of saliva over a long period of time.", which isn't as funny.
From A Place For My Stuff:
- "No, I would never want to be a member of any group whose symbol is a man nailed onto two pieces of wood. Especially if it's me!" (Carlin as Jesus in Interview with Jesus)
From Carlin on Campus:
- "So I say live and let live. That's my motto, "Live and let live"! Anyone who can't go along with that, take him outside and shoot the motherfucker."
- "Have you ever noticed when you're driving that anybody who's driving slower than you is an idiot? And anyone driving faster than you is a maniac!"
- "Think for a moment about the concept of the flame thrower. OK? The flame thrower. Because we have them. Well, we don't have them, the Army has them. That's right, we don't have any flame throwers! I'd say we're fucked if we have to go up against the Army, wouldn't you? But we have flame throwers! And what this indicates to me, it means that at some point, some person said to himself, 'Gee, I sure would like to set those people on fire over there. But I'm way too far away to get the job done. If only I had something that would throw flame on them."
- A differently-worded verison of this routine also shows up in Napalm & Silly Putty, p81
From Playin' With Your Head:
- "May the forces of evil become confused on the way to your house." (Hello-Goodbye)
From Doin' It Again / Parental Advisory (1990):
- "Think of how stupid the average person is, and then realize half of them are stupider than that." (Some People Are Stupid)
- "Israeli murderers are called Commandos. Arab Commandos are called terrorists. Contra killers are called Freedom fighters. Well, if crime fighters fight crime and firefighters fight fire, what do freedom fighters fight? They never mention that part of it to us, do they?"
- "Like on the airlines, they say they want to 'pre-board'. Well, what the hell is 'pre board'? What does that mean? To get on before you get on?"
- "Government wants to control information and control language because that's the way you control thought. And basically that's the game they're in. Same with religion. Religion is nothing but mind control. Religion is just trying to control your mind, control your thoughts, so they're going to tell you some things you shouldn't say because they're "sins". And besides telling you things you shouldn't say, religion's going to suggest to you some things you ought to be saying. Here's something you ought to say first thing when you wake up in the morning. Here's something you ought to say just before you go to sleep at night. Here's something we always say on the third Wednesday in April after the first full moon in Spring at 4:00 when the bells ring."
From George Carlin: 40 Years of Comedy (1997):
- "Every person you look at, you can see the universe in their eyes, if you're really looking"[56:24]
From You Are All Diseased (1999):
- "Religion easily has the greatest bullshit story ever told. Think about it. Religion has actually CONVINCED people that there's an invisible man -- living in the sky -- who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a special list of ten things he does not want you to do! And if you do any of these ten things he has a special place, full fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send YOU -- to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry, forever and ever 'til the end of time. -- But he loves you!. He loves you. He loves you and he needs money! He always needs money! He's all-powerful, all-perfect, all-knowing, and all-wise, [yet] somehow just can't handle money. Religion takes in billions of dollars, they pay no taxes, and they always need a little more. Now, you talk about a good bullshit story: holy shit!" (Religion)
- A later variation of this appears in Napalm & Silly Putty, p28
- Richard Dawkins used this quotation (in bold face) to preface chapter 8 of his book The God Delusion.
- "I've often thought people treat God rather rudely, don't you? [Asking for] trillions and trillions of prayers every day. Asking and pleading and begging for favors. Do this, gimme that, I need a new car, I want a better job. And most of this praying takes place on Sunday: his day off. It's not nice. And it's no way to treat a friend."
- Some images with this quote, along with additional paragraphs of the same "There Is No God" routine, have been making the rounds
From his appearances in the documentary The Aristrocrats (2005):
- "I do like finding out where the line is drawn, deliberately crossing it, bringing some of them with me across the line, and having them be happy that I did."
- There are a number of variations of this floating around the internet, namely ones that quote him as saying that it's "the job of every comedian to..." or similar. At the time of this writing, it's hard to say whether such variations are authentic variations from some other source (e.g., an interview) or are just the result of people stupidly misquoting him again.
From It's Bad For Ya (2008):
- "Sooner or later the people in this country are going to realize: the government does not give a fuck about them. The government doesn't care about you, or your children, or your rights, or your welfare, or your safety. It simply doesn't give a fuck about you. It's interested in its own power. That's the only thing keeping it and expanding it wherever possible."
- This is one I've seen people share a badly-worded version of, so here's the real quotation, word for word.
- [It's] "not important to get children to read. Children who wanna read are gonna read. Kids who want to learn to read going to learn to read. Much more important to teach children to QUESTION what they read. Children should be taught to question everything. To question everything they read, everything they hear. Children should be taught to question authority. Parents never teach their children to question authority because parents are authority figures themselves, and they don't want to undermine their own bullshit inside the household. So they stroke the kid and the kid strokes them, and they all stroke each other, all grow up all fucked up, and they come to shows like this."
- As mentioned on the bogus quotations page, this quotation is often seen being misworded. Which is ironic, given the topic.
- "America prays for God to destroy our enemies. Our enemies pray for God to destroy us. Somebody is gonna be disappointed. Somebody is wasting their fucking time. Could it be everyone?"
- Did you ever dial the phone and forget who you're calling? Don't you feel dumb? You don't know whether to hang on and hope you remember the voice or not. Then when you remember who it was, you have to call back, so you change your voice so they don't think you're a moron, right?
- Saturday Night Live, 1975 (debut episode, monologue #3)
- Religion at best, at best, is like a lift in your shoe. If you need it for a while, and it makes you walk straight and feel better, fine. But you don't need it forever, or you can become permanently disabled. Religion is like a lift in the shoe, and I say just don't ask me to wear your shoes. And let's not go down and nail lifts onto the natives' feet.
- Saturday Night Live, 1975 (debut episode)
- This is a variation on a routine on his album Toledo Window Box (1974), "God"
- You don't need a formal conspiracy when interests converge. These people went to the same universities and fraternities, they're on the same boards of directors, they're on the same country clubs, they have like-interests. They don't need to call a meeting; they know what is good for THEM, and they are getting it. And there used to be seven oil companies. There are now three. It will soon be two. The things that matter in this country have been reduced in choice: there are two political parties, there are a handful of insurance companies, there are six or seven information centers. But if you want a bagel there are 23 flavors because you have the ILLUSION, you have the ILLUSION of choice. You don't get the real important choices. No freedom of choice.
- Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher. Episode aired May 16, 2001 (Guest panel: George Carlin, Horace Cooper [to whom Carlin was responding], Julie Warner, Robert Shapiro)
- What's funny is that I see this quotation being used most often by conspiracy theorists who really do believe in the whole "Illuminati" thing. That's not what Carlin is alluding to. Apparently, they missed that key word, "formal". They also overlooked the line "They don't need to call a meeting".
- [Commenting on "Jammin in New York"] "The planet will take care of itself. People are selfish, and that's what they're doing, is trying to save the planet for themselves to have a nicer place to live. They don't care about the planet, in theory. They just care about having a comfortable place. And these people with the fires and the floods and everything, they overbuild, they put nature to the test and they get what's coming to 'em. [...] I can't wait for the sea levels to rise. I can't wait for some of these cities to disappear. There are places that are going to go away. The map is going to change. People think nature is outside of them. They don't take into them the idea that we're part of it. They say '"Oh we're going for a nature walk! We're going to the country because we like nature!' Nature's in here and if you're in tune with it like the INdians, the Hopis especially, the balance of life, the balance, the harmony of nature, if you understand that you don't overbuild. You don't do all this moron stuff. [...] It's a symphony, everybody is in the band. You know, it's not just one group. People want their goodies. They want their toys. Everybody wants the newest gizmo. We're slaves to the gizmos and toys. [...] Everybody wanys a cell phone that will make pancakes and they think that'll make them happy."
- "[A large comet hitting th Pacific Ocean] would be terrible, and it would be wonderful. Just to see it all, you know. I only wish there were some way I could live out on the moon and watch it all on CNN. And just see the whole thing happen, see the big splash. Or have it hit land and this big cloud erupt. That would be fun to see. Iím just a fan of big disasters. And that is as big as t hey get. Let íem go. I just want to describe the mess. But, you know, life is dual. If youíll scratch a cynic, youíll find a disappointed idealist. And the fire never goes out completely. And that part of me that made my mother say, "You have a lovely nature," is very true."
- The Progressive, 2001
- "I think of shock as kind of an uptown form of surprise. Comedy is filled with surprise, so when I cross a line... I like to find out where the line might be and then cross it deliberately, and then make the audience happy about crossing the line with me."
- The Onion A.V. Club, November 10, 1999
- A similar variation shows up in the film The Aristrocrats, around the 01:13:28 mark: "Now, some people do this for shock value. Shock is just another uptown word for surprise. Granted it has a different quality to it, but a joke is about surprising someone. I'm a great believer in context. You can joke about anything. I do like finding out where the line is drawn, deliberately crossing it and bringing some of them with me across the line, and having them be happy that I did."
- Note: There's a very similar-sounding quotation that shows up a lot on the internet that you've probably seen before, but I'm still trying to find its source. In the meantime, there are two sourceable quotations with the same sort of message.
- "If it's true that we are all from the center of a star, every atom in each of us from the center of a star, then we're all the same thing. Even a Coke machine or a cigarette butt in the street in Buffalo, is made out of atoms that came from a star. They've all recycled thousands of times, as have you and I. So, if that is true, then I am EVERYWHERE in the universe, in an extended sense. And therefore, it's only ME out there. So what is there to be afraid of? What is there that needs solace seeking? Nothing! There is nothing to be afraid of because it's all us. [...] The trouble is, we have been separated from within that universe by being born and given a name, and an identity, and being individuated. We have been separated from the oneness and that's what religion exploits, that people have this yearning to be part of the overall one again. So they exploit that. They call it 'God'; they say he has rules and I think that's cruel. I think you can do it absent religion."
- Interview with Terry Gross. Fresh Air. National Public Radio (NPR). WHYY, Philadelphia. Nov 1, 2004. Hear the whole interview on NRP.org here.
- "When you're born in this world you're given a ticket to the Freak Show. And when you're born in America, you're given a front row seat. And some of us get to sit there with notebooks."
- Archive of American Television, 2008
- "They say if you scratch a cynic, you'll find a disappointed idealist. And I would admit, that somewhere underneath all this there's a little flicker of a flame of idealism that would love to see it all ó whoosh! ó change. But it can't happen that way. And incremental change ó it just seems the pile of shit is too deep. It seems like there's too much to do."
- Archive of American Television, 2008