I mentioned late last night/early this morning that George Carlin died. That saddens me, as I’m a big fan of Carlin’s. I’m not going to say I loved every word that came out of his mouth…and I’m also not going to claim that I haven’t SAID every word that’s come out of his mouth. 🙂 However, there are certain words and roles of his that I’ve appreciated more than others. Here’s a list of my favorite Carlin moments, many of which you might not be aware. We all know about his stand-up, so I’m not going to get into that…and I’m aware that he was Rufus in “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” but screw that and everything else with Keanu in it. Sure, Carlin was the best thing in that movie, but that’s kind of like someone taking a huge crap, finding a pearl in it and saying, “Wow! That pearl’s the best part of the crap I took!” I’m just baffled by why people sifted through it in the first place.
…anyway…here’s a list of amazing Carlin stuff you might not have seen, but that I love.
- “Dogma” – a movie by Kevin Smith. George played Cardinal Glick, a Cardinal with the Catholic Church. That was a pretty funny appearance for those who know Carlin’s past and his basic opposition to the Catholic Church. He played the part really well, and provided some really good laughs in the movie. One of Smith’s best movies, and Carlin helped make it that way. If nothing else, we have him to thank for revealing the “Buddy Christ” to the world.
- “The Simpsons” TV show. Carlin played an occasionally recurring character in “Munchie,” a guy who used to know Homer’s hippie-radical mother. He showed up about as often as Homer’s mom, which wasn’t too frequent, but it was always nice to see him. A lot of people somehow don’t notice that it’s him, but his timing and vocal prowess come through pretty clearly to me.
- “Shining Time Station” – a TV show for kids. Many people think of George Carlin as an abrasive, offensive, vulgar, rude, grumpy dude–and they’re right. But there are (or were, anyway) kids who thought of him in a completely different light. To them, he’s “Mr. Conductor,” a diminutive train-engineer who guided along the story of the show and helped teach them lessons each week…or morning…or whatever. I didn’t religiously watch the show, but I clearly remember running across it on PBS and my jaw just about dropped seeing him. I remember thinking, “That’s George Carlin!” and then a couple of minutes later, “Wow…this is terrible, and I’m going to stop watching it!” I think Carlin felt that way, too–and he even referenced it in a TV special when he made a joke about kids being irritating and then said, “And just remember, this is Mr. Conductor talking!” Nevertheless, he did the show, and he did it for kids…and I’m thinking he liked making that contribution. And I’m thinking it because he was also on…
- “Thomas the Tank Engine” where he was the narrator of the US series. No one really realizes that one either. It’s amazing that a guy that conservative groups and religious nuts labeled as “crude” did so much work for kids…and some of those kids were probably sitting in the homes of the rightist nuts who hated him, too…and I hope he got a kick out of that.
- The VERY short lived “George Carlin Show” where he played–you guessed it–George O’GRADY… Ahem… Anyway, the show was pretty terrible, and he knew it, but it was his one attempt to do something for prime-time, and actually once or twice it managed to be kind of funny.
- “Welcome Back Kotter” where he played “Wally the Wow.” Carlin was a DJ who was a former Sweathog working at a radio station that Freddy “Boom Boom” Washington almost left school for. Not a major role, but memorable enough to make my list, anyway…and it’s pretty cool to think of Carlin and Gabe Kaplan in the same room.
- My favorite thing Carlin’s done is a movie that was universally panned, largely because of the off-screen relationship of two of its stars…I am of course speaking of “Jersey Girl” (which is a GREAT movie, and you should really give it a chance). Carlin played Ben Affleck’s father, Bart Trinke. Before this movie, I’d only seen Carlin do funny roles. You’re introduced to him as a kind of sloppy-drunk street-cleaner, but you quickly fall in love with him. There’s a scene at the end of the movie between Affleck and Carlin that’s deeply touching and kind of makes me teary-eyed. (I won’t spoil it for you. Rent it.) It actually made me think, “Wow…I’ve got to be a better person and be better to my dad.” And that came from George Carlin. The dude actually changed my life…and that’s a fan letter that I’ll always regret having never written.
So, there you go. I’ll call that the “Seven Things You Probably Didn’t See on TV” list.