Who will fill his footprints?
If ever asked who were the most progressive, forward thinking comedians of our time naturally I will say Richard Pryor, but co-chairing that biumvirate, would be George Carlin.
I grew up with Richard, but I didn't know of Carlin's work until I saw him on some special on TV back in '77. I didn't think he was funny then, but later realized why. In the 80s we had cable and particularly, we had HBO. My mother worked at nights around this time, so I fell asleep on the couch. I woke up at some point to Carlin at Carnegie or whatever and I thought he was funny as shit. Like Pryor, Carlin's art was shaped and reflective of the culture and politics of 60s and early 70s. While Richard may have reflected strongly on the inner cities and black people in particular, Carlin's focus was on the world and was a bit more confrontational. Carlin also gave us the world of absurdities but only as a slight exaggeration of the absurdities in real life.
If you are an inspiring comedian and you admire Carlin and Pryor, you couldn't have picked better fathers. While many try to imitate the later (and always fail miserably), most comedians of today don't even try to touch the former.
The last show I saw of Carlin's was an HBO special and he had, for the first time admitted that after 9/11, he saw himself listening to and following the "authority figures" that he never listened to in his day. In other words, after the towers went down he began to listen the President, Pentagon chiefs of Staff, and others who gave us the Color Code Watch of Fear. I was slightly disappointed in Carlin, but not surprised looking at the fact that he seemed to be the few left of his generation who still clung on to political ideas and cynicism of his day. I guess everyone has their limits. What would be mine? Anyway, the rest of the show was good as always.
I feel bad for those who are too young to know who Carlin was or what he truly represented. Now you got comedians who just do beer jokes and wave the flag. Some may think that Lewis Black can hold Carlin's flag as reflected in bulletin boards I've read this morning, but I doubt that.
Black is funny, acidic, and witty, but not exactly progressive. He may be anti-conservative, but he's only cynical when it comes to liberal politicians and figures; ultimately giving them a pass, not exactly tearing at the fabric of American politics in my view.
I guess when it comes down to it, we are not here to be replaced for imitation, but we are here to make our footprint and hopefully others will take steps to finish the path.