Like him or not, Carlin mattered

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 25, 2008

For many people, gaining respect among peers and the public is something worth attempting. The notion of building one’s reputation is important to a good many professionals.

But for comedian George Carlin, who died Sunday in St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica, Calif., he was a performer who had but one critic who mattered — himself.

He was unashamed and to the point on his views about society and American culture. He did not apologize for his positions on religion, language and social taboos that he made central to his routines.

Email newsletter signup

Carlin offended a lot of people with material that was purposely offensive.

But while he was pushing the envelope, he was making people think about important topics, even if he did it in a way some might consider distasteful.

He was known as a comedian, but he was also a sociologist and a philosopher with his own style and his own way of delivering his message.

He was particularly venomous when it came to the strict social boundaries on sexuality and language.

“The whole problem with this idea of obscenity and indecency, and all of these things — bad language and whatever — it’s all caused by one basic thing, and that is: religious superstition,” Carlin told The Associated Press in 2004. “There’s an idea that the human body is somehow evil and bad and there are parts of it that are especially evil and bad, and we should be ashamed. Fear, guilt and shame are built into the attitude toward sex and the body. It’s reflected in these prohibitions and these taboos that we have.”

George Carlin made people laugh and made people think for more than 40 years. And regardless of anyone’s opinion of his method of comedy, his material had a noticeable impact.

His body of work is now being reflected on after his passing.

And he wouldn’t have cared less what anybody thought about it.