Monday, June 23, 2008

I Used to Be Irish Catholic...Now I'm an American

"I used to be Irish Catholic, Now I'm an American..." those were the words that changed my life.

I was 14 years old, and my brother had just put the new (to us) cassette into the stereo of his car. The years before this moment had seen my sense of humor shaped almost solely by network TV and Bill Cosby albums. However, George Carlin's Class Clown was my graduation from the School of Cosby to the Working World of Carlin.

The weird thing is that George Carlin and I appeared so different on the outside. I have always been the the squeakly clean, crew cut honor student who never even considered a single experiment with drugs or alcohol. Also, my politics seemed nearly 180 degrees off of George's. However, George taught me timing, delivery, and he most importantly taught me that in my world it doesn't matter what a person looks like, thinks like, or acts like if he can make me laugh.

George and I did have some similarities though. We were peeved by some of the same pets. In one of his books he mentions how much he hates the fact that 99.9% of the world mispronounces forte. His response to the argument that the dictionary lists "for-tay" as an accepted secondary pronunciation is to say that the reason it is secondary is because it is not the PRIMARY (correct) pronunciation of "FORT."

I used the above example of forte in describing to my wife that 99.9% of the world doesn't understand damping of vibrations. To reduce or damp a vibration one would install a damper. If one desired to make something wet, he could reach for a spray bottle to serve as a dampener and could dampen the offending dry item. It bugs me that the repeated misuse of a word actually leads to its becoming an accepted usage. I recently saw in an Engineering dictionary that with regard to noise and vibration, dampen has now become an accepted substitute for damp. To paraphrase my late comedic mentor, the reason dampen is an accepted substitute is because it is not the primary (correct) word.

I may have always appeared to be the poster child for the nerdy, hard right, but when I would open my mouth and unleash a volume of sarcastic wit in the style I learned from George, it made me the life of the party. Thanks to George Carlin my circle of friends includes stoners, cripples, religious nuts, MILFS, doctors, immigrants, gays, convicted felons, soccer moms, truck drivers, professional athletes, former Captains of Industry and the legally blind. I love a variety of ladder climbers, under-achievers, and the comfortably uninformed and unconcerned.

I am a man of the people, and I owe a big part of that to a former radical, dope-smoking hippy who was willing to rip on anybody if he thought it would get a laugh.

The world is a sadder place today now that George Carlin is gone.

However, George will always be with me because he provided me with alternatives to consider when I reached the formative years of my adolescence.

George made me a classroom hero by providing me with the mantra I gleaned from his Class Clown album, "Well, I'm Bored...why not deprive someone else of their education."

It's good to know with people reading my blog at their places of employment depriving their bosses of the time they should be working, I continue to be the same apparently squeaky-clean smart ass 14 year old kid George Carlin turned me into.


Anonymous said...

When I was a teenager, a friend of mine gave me the Class Clown album rather than throwing it away as instructed by his mother. My brothers and I laughed so hard at that up in my room that it caused my father to come investigate. "What the *#&$ is this?," he asked, when seeing a reference to the 7 bad words. "I better listen to it."

So, off he went with my brother-in-law to check it out. I could hear both of them roaring as we were outside with the dog. My mother was gone at the time. After it ended, he called me back in and said, "I guess you can keep it, but you're on your own if your mother sees it." I think he borrowed that thing about 10 times after to play it for others when they visited.

George has always been a huge inspiration for me as well. I can recite, nearly verbatim, the "language" routine where he discussed the airlines, etc. The guy was a wordsmith of unrivaled skill.

He had so many routines that were brilliant, that it is difficult to even reference one of them. So many. One of my favorites: "Think of how stupid the average person is and then realize that half of them are stupider than that. And it doesn't take you very long to spot one of them does it? Take you about eight seconds. You'll be listening to some say... "This guy is *$&^#@! stupid!" Then...then there are some people, they're not stupid...their full of *$&^. Huh? That doesn't take very long to spot either, does it? Take you about the same amount of time. You'll be listening to some guy..and saying, "well, he's fairly intelligent.... seems to know what he's talking about.... ahht, he's full of *$&^!" Then there are some people, they're not stupid, they're not full of *$&^...they're *&#^$*$# nuts! Dan Quayle is all three! All three! Stupid, full of *#&$, and *#&$^#(@ nuts!

I'll miss George. He had a perspective that added to life.

Anonymous said...

I first heard George Carlin in Jr. High School. His album was practically contraband, but we listen and laughed. George mellowed a bit post heart attack, but as a young adult, the veneer of comedy was replaced by my understanding of satire and I came to respect the man for standing up to hypocrisy and hubris. Now I've got kids and I've corrected them when they objected to the word Stupid, saying it was a bad word. No, I said. It's a strong word, some people and ideas are stupid. Use it carefully.

Thanks George.

PS - Jeff, you don't need to say convicted felon. You can't be a felon unless you're convicted. It doesn't dampen my affection for you though.

Jeff Skiver said...

Wow...that PS was so scary-brilliant that I started thinking maybe George rose from the dead. Then, I started thinking about that Last Supper picture of him on the cover of his book, "When is Jesus Gonna Bring the Porkchops?". Was it foreshadowing?

Then, I jumped off of the whacky thought of George Carlin as the Messiah, and I started wondering if one can be a felon without being convicted. (Don't get me wrong...the comment in the PS is completely Carlin-esque BRILLIANT.) However, like all of Carlin's stuff it has got me thinking. Hmmmmmmm. Is Felon a status that comes from the true state of facts, or does it serve as a legal definition. Was OJ really a felon before and after Johnny Cochran had him attempt to tug a glove over his unmedicated arthritic hand...or is he ultimately just legally responsible without being a felon???

How do pardoning and expunging fit into the felon/conviction definition? Wow, this is a lot to ponder just before bed time....

Based upon my visit to Ireland, I am starting to think we need two words for felon. Felon will be anyone who commits a major offense...(we know who we are). Felonn will be any felon who is convicted of a felony. My inspiration for this is the two spellings of Whiskey/Whisky. I mean if you can spell it two different ways to differentiate whether or not it came from Scotland, then surely we can do the same thing to classify which of us felons managed to beat the rap...

Anonymous said...

Is this the bit where he talks about sin? And in just the one thought of having sex with a girl there is like 10 sins... Any one know what I'm talking about? Where can I find that. I need it for a paper I'm writing.

Jeff Skiver said...

The track "I used to Irish Catholic" appears on George Carlin's "Class Clown" album.

And, yes, that album does include his talking about sins for "feeling up Ellen."

He says something like, " it was a sin to want to feel up Ellen. It was a sin to think of a place to feel up Ellen. It was a sin to take Ellen to the place to feel her up. It was a sin to try to feel Ellen up, and it was a sin to feel her up... there were five sins in one Goddamn feel..."

That was very loosely paraphrased because I haven't heard it in years. But regardless of whether he says 5 feels or 10 feels, Class Clown is where you find the bit you're asking about.

I hope this was helpful to you.

Jeff Skiver