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411mania » The 411 » Ben Piper
Name:Ben Piper
Current Roles:Get LOST; Fact or Fiction: Movies moderator; DVD Reviews
Past Roles:The 411 TV News Wrap
Other credits:
And we're rolling... - 06.26.2008

I was tempted to begin this week’s Fact or Fiction column with the heavy-handed business of acknowledging a great loss in the world of entertainment, before quickly moving on to the matters at hand. I decided against this course of action for two reasons. 1) I do my very best not to repeat myself, as this is how the column unfolded last week and 2) while the passing of Stan Winston was no small loss by any means, this one hurt a hell of a lot more. This was a true kick in the gut, one that’s made me morose and sullen the last several days anytime I thought or dwelled upon the subject for too long.

I was first introduced to George Carlin at a very young age. I was a child of the 70’s you see, and my father served as a mentor to me not only in how I should live my life and how to be a good person, but he (as well as my much older siblings) was paramount in turning me on to certain subject matters. I was probably less than six years old when one night my father awakened me from my bed and sat me down in front of the television to watch George Carlin do a routine that compared the differences between football and baseball. Even half-asleep, I truly loved it, and somehow GOT it! On some rudimentary level, I understood the joke. That either speaks to my development at the time, or Carlin’s abilities to connect to an audience, even one he wasn’t ever even thinking of going after in that timeframe.

As cable came into existence, HBO became the great big shiny new thing to marvel over… (They only aired during the evening hours way back then. Weekends were late afternoon to midnight if I recall correctly) Suddenly, suburbia had this great new visual plaything, in which recent theatrical movies (such as Smokey and the Bandit) were aired uncensored and people like George Carlin could be exposed to a somewhat larger audience without any kind of verbal shackle. Mom and Dad argued over what I could watch and what I couldn’t. Mom put the kibosh on Carlin, due to his language, stating that I was too young to be exposed to that kind of chatter. Dad relented and finally agreed, only to pull me out of bed yet again once my mom was asleep so we could watch it together, with the caveat that I could never tell her. This was the mid to late seventies, mind you. I was a little kid. Most of what Carlin stated went completely over my head. I simply laughed because my father was laughing.

But I did learn seven new words that I quickly added to my vocabulary. This made me extremely popular on the school playground for all the wrong reasons.

As time and years wore on, Carlin continued to do his HBO specials from time to time. Mom and Dad continued to deliberate on what I was and was not to be allowed to watch. And while Carlin was still off limits, I was somehow able to ask the question one evening “Why does Mork have such a potty mouth?”

At some point in my pre-teens, my mother finally relented. She knew that I knew all the words that she was attempting to shield me from. And she finally gave in on the one thing that my father had been arguing all that time; Carlin isn’t just funny, he causes you to think from a different perspective. He made you smarter by proxy. It was Pop’s hope that if I was exposed to this outside the box brand of how to look at the world at a very young age, it would make me more capable to see bullshit whenever it presented itself and not be afraid to speak up and call it out for what it was.

And it worked. At several points in my life I was “that guy”. The quiet unassuming one that mostly kept his opinions to himself throughout the status quo until some point where I couldn’t stay quiet no longer. Much to the astonishment to my friends, family, and co-workers, at several key points of my life I’ve been the one dude in several individual situations that would speak up because no one else dared, either because they simply were too afraid to, or because they didn’t think saying anything would change the situation. Whether it was standing up to an offensive and/or clueless boss, (got a couple of doozy stories there) a longtime friend who thinks because we’ve been friends for so long that he can get away with anything and not be called to task for it, or a family member who’s not really a member of the family who feels he has the run of the household, I’ve built a solid reputation as the one guy that you do not wish to piss off.

And I owe that facet of my personality to Mr. Carlin. Directly. Unabashedly. Thankfully.

I truthfully do not know where else I get the balls to say some of the things that I’ve said publicly in the past with regards my personal and professional life without fear of repercussion. And please trust me when I state that I have no other explanation for this. I was brought up to be polite, and intelligent, and co-operative. But at some basic level, I’m hard wired to speak out of turn LOUDLY if need be. And be sarcastic while doing so. And sardonic.

He was a great influence on comedy, without any doubt. I am not a stand-up comedian. Too thin-skinned to ever try, you see. But now that Mr. Carlin is no longer with us, all of the living greats in the profession are quick to state unequivocally that he is without any doubt on the Mount Rushmore of stand-up. Hell, the perpetually pissed-off Lewis Black was damn-near choking back tears on Larry King.

On my own personal all-time list of greatest stand-up comedians, Carlin and Pryor run neck and neck for the top spot. Both were brilliant and genius in their own right, but for vastly different reasons. I’d like to now think of them in the same place, comparing notes, and making one another laugh at the other’s observations.

George Carlin didn’t believe that there was a Heaven. Unabashedly, he did not believe. But if there is? He’s now there, just based upon all the joy and entertainment and laughter that he’s brought to the world. If there’s a Heaven, I’m going to be supremely pissed if he doesn’t get in. He’s earned his spot. Even if God gets annoyed with George yanking on his ear and taking him to task for this, that, or the other thing, he’s there.

He HAS to be.

In closing, I’d wish Mr. Carlin a heartfelt “God bless”, but I know that would only cause him to shake his fist at me and curse “Goddamn, didn’t you learn anything?”

So instead… Fuck you, George. Fuck you and the horse that you rode in on. You old miserable bastard. Kindly now go fuck yourself. Turn over in your grave, what do I care? You’re dead.

Many media outlets have touted Carlin’s greatest epitaph to be his seven words that can’t be spoken upon television. That’s far too easy and shallow with regards to the many great comedic and thought-provoking scenarios that he gave us in the years that followed.

On his own website, which he tended to personally, there is a new set of seven famous words on the front page.

We Love You and We Miss You.

Truer words have never been spoken, unless George was behind them.

Thank you for everything, you old fuck!



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