Sunday, November 20, 2011

Old Modern Man

I miss George Carlin terribly.  I think of him often.  I wonder what he would have said about our sick, wacky times.  Carlin was never a political comedian in the sense that he commented on politics and politicians; he thought it was all bullshit and that voting was pointless.  But he certainly spoke knowingly and critically of our age, always being funny and usually wise and eloquent, as well.  I miss him because his honesty and intelligence, as well as his humor, comforted me, acknowledged me, justified me.  George made me feel proud to be an outsider because he was King of the Outsiders and he made that pretty cool.

I got to interview George Carlin twice, both times by phone.  The first time was when I worked for HBO and one of his specials was coming up.  The second time was when I did some freelance work for the producers/ creators of Shining Time Station / Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends and George was the lovable Mr. Conductor.

Carlin, especially in his post-heart attack years, was reputed to be difficult to deal with (for producers, suits and such, which was probably true) and no easier to interview.  But on both occasions, which were about five years apart, he was pleasant and easy-going; willing to answer any question I put to him; and generous with his time.  Maybe it was because I wasn’t a journalist but instead just a p.r. hack trying to do her job; Carlin always respected ordinary working folks.  I think it was because he was just a decent guy who sometimes gave greedy or bossy or nervy people a hard time.  After all, he was George Carlin.

If George were here now, he’d probably be quietly, maybe anonymously, sending food and blankets to assorted Occupy Wall Street sites.  He would be talking about the legitimacy of gay marriage, tax and income inequality and the danger wrought by the Religious Right’s slow, steady, disciplined 30-year-climb from minor local politics to the less-than-hallowed-halls of Congress, the Court and the White House.  He would be angry, brainy and funny as ever.  And he would be a sane voice in crazy times.

A couple of hours ago, I saw a re-run of the Mark Twain Prize ceremony that honored George Carlin a few months after his death at the age of 71 in June, 2008.  It ended with Carlin’s complete performance of his magnificent routine, “A Modern Man.”  Whether you recall it fondly or never heard it, I present it here for your enjoyment and edification:

“I’m a modern man, digital and smoke-free; a man for the millennium.  A diversified, multi-cultural, post-modern deconstructionist; politically, anatomically and ecologically incorrect.  I’ve been uplinked and downloaded, I’ve been inputted and outsourced.  I know the upside of downsizing, I know the downside of upgrading.  I’m a high-tech low-life.  A cutting-edge, state-of-the-art, bi-coastal multi-tasker, and I can give you a gigabyte in a nanosecond.  I’m new-wave, but I’m old-school; and my inner child is outward-bound.  I’m a hot-wired, heat-seeking, warm-hearted cool customer; voice-activated and bio-degradable.  I interface with my database; my database is in cyberspace; so I’m interactive, I’m hyperactive, and from time to time I’m radioactive.

“Behind the eight ball, ahead of the curve, ridin’ the wave, dodgin’ the bullet, pushin’ the envelope.  I’m on point, on task, on message, and off drugs.  I’ve got no need for coke and speed; I’ve got no urge to binge and purge.  I’m in the moment, on the edge, over the top, but under the radar.  A high-concept, low-profile, medium-range ballistic missionary.  A street-wise smart bomb.  A top-gun bottom-feeder.  I wear power ties, I tell power lies, I take power naps, I run victory laps.  I’m a totally ongoing, big-foot, slam-dunk rainmaker with a pro-active outreach.  A raging workaholic, a working rageaholic; out of rehab and in denial.  I’ve got a personal trainer, a personal shopper, a personal assistant, and a personal agenda.

“You can't shut me up; you can't dumb me down.  ‘Cause I’m tireless, and I’m wireless.  I’m an alpha-male on beta-blockers.  I’m a non-believer, I’m an over-achiever;  laid-back and fashion-forward.  Up-front, down-home; low-rent, high-maintenance.  I’m super-sized, long-lasting, high-definition, fast-acting, oven-ready and built to last.  A hands-on, footloose, knee-jerk head case; prematurely post-traumatic, and I have a love child who sends me hate-mail.

“But I’m feeling, I’m caring, I’m healing, I’m sharing.  A supportive, bonding, nurturing primary-care giver.  My output is down, but my income is up.  I take a short position on the long bond, and my revenue stream has its own cash flow.  I read junk mail, I eat junk food, I buy junk bonds, I watch trash sports.  I’m gender-specific, capital-intensive, user-friendly and lactose-intolerant.

“I like rough sex; I like tough love.  I use the f-word in my e-mail.  And the software on my hard drive is hard-core—no soft porn.  I bought a microwave at a mini-mall.  I bought a mini-van at a mega-store.  I eat fast food in the slow lane. I’m toll-free, bite-size, ready-to-wear, and I come in all sizes.  A fully equipped, factory-authorized, hospital-tested, clinically proven, scientifically formulated medical miracle.

“I’ve been pre-washed, pre-cooked, pre-heated, pre-screened, pre-approved, pre-packaged, post-dated, freeze-dried, double-wrapped and vacuum-packed.  And I have unlimited broadband capacity.  I’m a rude dude, but I’m the real deal.  Lean and mean.  Cocked, locked and ready to rock; rough, tough and hard to bluff.  I take it slow, I go with the flow; I ride with the tide, I’ve got glide in my stride.  Drivin’ and movin’, sailin’ and spinnin’; jivin’ and groovin, wailin’ and winnin’.  I don’t snooze, so I don’t lose.  I keep the pedal to the metal and the rubber on the road.  I party hearty, and lunchtime is crunch time.  I’m hangin’ in, there ain’t no doubt; and I’m hangin tough.  Over and out.”

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