George Carlin: Commemoraitve Collection

Studio: MPI Home Video

Jun 22, 2018 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


George Carlin’s incredible career spanning five decades was hallmarked by a deep fascination with the English language, fueling unique critical rhetoric on life, culture, and politics. His biting social commentary and goofy observational humor would become arguably one of the most eminent acts in analytical comedy, with many notable contemporary comedians claiming direct inspiration. His eclecticism encompassed fourteen HBO stand-up specials, numerous film, radio and television appearances, six bestselling books, a handful of Gold-certified albums, and multiple Emmy nominations (also, he was Mr. Conductor on Shining Time Station, and the Narrator for Thomas & Friends… let that sink in). Known and cherished as the premier counterculture American satirist, alongside Richard Pryor and Lenny Bruce, Carlin’s impact on American society is etched far deeper than almost any other comedian.

Best known for the monologue “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television” off his 1972 album Class Clown, the routine was modified with additional themes on his 1973 album Occupation: Foole, which was retitled “Filthy Words.” This routine of seven “bad words” directly ignited what would become the 1978 Federal Communications Commission versus Pacifica Foundation Supreme Court case. This case remains the only free speech case of its kind to be based on the routine of a stand-up comic. The subsequent decision would reaffirmed the government’s prerogative in regulating public content on radio and television, but Carlin’s career would almost be set in stone.

Through a continuous struggle with several drug addictions, swimming IRS debt, and being a present father and husband, Carlin’s life was a turbulent rollercoaster of good fortune and bad choices that helped sculpt his idiosyncratic lens of civilized society. While still remaining strikingly active on yearly national tours, he grappled with a continuous heart condition, succumbing to three heart attacks and (later in life) recurring heart failure. This eventually would be the cause of his death on June 22, 2008, four days after he was named honoree of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. He is the first comedian to be given this distinguished award posthumously.

Carlin’s work has been readily available on DVD and CD for the past couple decades, and has been wrangled several times into collections of varying comprehensiveness and quality. Regardless, MPI Home Video has decided it was their time to give it a go, delivering the George Carlin: Commemorative Collection for the 10-year anniversary of the master comic’s death. This collection is (of course) centered around Carlin’s complete prolific catalogue of HBO specials, his 40-year anniversary special (hosted by Jon Stewart), and is buttressed by a sizable amount of “Extra Bonus Stuff.”

This additional digital material includes Blu-ray duplicates of Carlin’s last two stand-up specials, Life is Worth Losing and It’s Bad For Ya, as well as an audio CD of his posthumously-released album I Kinda Like It When a Lotta People Die, which was originally recorded before the September 11th terrorist attacks, but was subsequently shelved. This show (in large part) was eventually re-tooled into his 17th HBO special, Complaints and Grievances. Carlin’s only mainstream television special, titled The Real George Carlin and shot in 1973 (and featuring musical interludes by Kris Kristofferson, Rita Coolidge, and B.B. King), is also amazingling included. This is the only time that any audience can clearly see the early transition in Carlin’s career from a goof in a suit and tie, to a counterculture comedy icon.

Episodes of CBS Talent Scouts, The Hollywood Palace, and The Jackie Gleason Show that featured Carlin are placed alongside a pilot episode of an unaired 1984 HBO series titled APT 2-C, in which Carlin was the freelance writer protagonist. Several clipshow compilations made at various points in his career assist those looking for his “greatest hits,” serving as an effective introduction to newcomers of the comic’s style and stage presence. Two archived performances/workshops at LA comedy clubs (The Comedy Store and The Comedy & Magic Club) help round out the performance material rather well, allowing a unrestricted look into Carlin’s process of fine-tuning his routines’ deliveries and content.

Two definitive interviews, George on George and Too Hip for the Room (recorded in 2003 and 2007, respectively) also grant a rare personal look into the comic’s life, history, and methodology. The former is cut into a brief documentary, inter-splicing performance footage and personal photos to add further context (albeit with shoddy audio editing), with the latter talk being a segmented version of Carlin’s three-hour discussion with the Archive of American Television.

The case is covered with original artwork, showcasing the countless wacky expressions that Carlin was often associated with, accurately representing the full range of the comedy experience that this collection affords. The inner case is plastered with pictures of Carlin from the major stages in his career; and in addition to the actual specials and bonus material on the collection’s ten-disc set, liner notes by comedian Patton Oswalt, and a large poster-sized blow-up of the box artwork is also included.

Even ten years after his death, Carlin is still held as a paragon of socially critical American comedy, and continues to inspire and encourage upcoming generations of comics and orators. This welcome and comprehensive addition to any stand-up comedy collection delivers all what we have come to love about Carlin, while still managing to include viewpoints, material, and information that even the most diehard Carlin devotee may yet not know (who now, should rightfully covet this set). George Carlin: Commemorative Collection is soaked in its titular subject’s timelessness, and ultimately is a must-have for all fans of comedy and comedy history.



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