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George Carlin's American Dream (HBO/Judd Apatow documentary)

Started by up_the_hampipe, May 24, 2022, 01:33:44 PM

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This is available on Now TV. I loved the Garry Shandling doc that Apatow did, and this is similarly very impressive. It's also very long (2 parts at almost 2 hours each) like the Shandling one, so it covers everything with lots of cool insight into his process and evolution, and doesn't shy away from some of the negative aspects of him as a person and occasionally as a performer. The only difficulty is pausing to make out some of his handwritten scribbles, also much like the Shandling one.

Still, it's highly recommended, especially for the almost overwhelming montage at the end that shows how timeless so much of his material remains. I've never really been a proper fan of Carlin, but this feels like necessary viewing for a comedy fan. Apatow should only be making these from now on.


Noodle Lizard

I saw the first part last night and really enjoyed it. George Carlin was really important to me, so I watched every available interview, read his all his books and (unfinished) autobiography, even saw his daughter Kelly's one-woman show about him, and yet there was still some stuff in here I wasn't aware of - not to mention plenty of great footage. I could do without quite so many talking heads, but I understand why they're there.

Looking forward to the next part covering his later era, which is the stuff ("stuff") that really made an impression on me as a teenager getting into stand-up.


Quote from: Noodle Lizard on May 24, 2022, 06:37:03 PMI could do without quite so many talking heads, but I understand why they're there.

Yeah, but I did enjoy Bill Burr geeking out over how Carlin uses his voice.

Martin Van Buren Stan

Did it show his routine attacking bulimia / ED sufferers?

Noodle Lizard

Quote from: up_the_hampipe on May 24, 2022, 10:43:42 PMYeah, but I did enjoy Bill Burr geeking out over how Carlin uses his voice.

Yeah, that was nice to see. I actually didn't know Burr was a big Carlin fan, but it made me consider how much influence he's had on Burr's act too - different though they may be.

Louis CK would've been an obvious addition to the talking heads, being one of the more popular comedians who outspokenly idolised Carlin more than anyone else I can think of and modeled his stand-up career after him - but I don't expect he'll be turning up.

Noodle Lizard

Quote from: Martin Van Buren Stan on May 24, 2022, 10:49:45 PMDid it show his routine attacking bulimia / ED sufferers?

A "gotcha"!

Everyone's aware of the material that's aged badly. For what it's worth, I think the intention behind that specific bit was far more of a prototypical take on "first world problems" than a targeted attack on mental health disorders. If there was a running theme in his work, it was to excoriate things he believed to be emblematic of privileged, middle-upper class white America.

He was wrong about some things. He was born in the 1930s and has been dead for over two decades, of course some things don't track now. Within those parameters, it's somewhat remarkable how ahead-of-the-curve he was on a lot of issues, which is surely worth your focus just as much as the few misguided bits peppered throughout his 40-year career.

I truly loathe Carlin's misanthrope shockjock period. It is painful to watch him drag himself back and forth across the stage spewing youtube comments. 1970s Carlin is about the most likeable and engaging stage presence you could imagine for a comic, by the end of the 90s its abrasion for its own sake and he's not even good at that. Damn, dumb people are stupid? Yuppies annoy you? Fucking hell.

One of the truly brilliant, unmatched, things about Carlins best periods is how he'd have subversive material side by side with hacky stuff forgetting why you went into a room, what's the difference between a moment and a jiffy, remember boardgames? etc. and make the hack shit sound like it was bending the rules as much as the subversion. He could do this because his audience engagement and sense of rhythm was just that good. And it fit his posthippy message about how we should step outside of our routines and look at the world in new ways. It's sad that a guy who was great because he didn't need edgy material to be a counterculture force sank to jaded rants about fat children, the mentally unwell and ugly women. I wasn't around in the 1970s obviously, but if I was I think it would be as disheartening as watching Stewart Lee turn into Ricky Gervais.

But despite it all I do think he had good intentions with the last period of his career. The hopelessness and anger was real. He saw very clearly that liberal democrats had no interest in breaking the pincer movement of the evangelical right and market homogeny. I think his worldview turned pessimistic in the extreme. His idea was to shake people up, give them a jolt and make them see the world with fresh eyes. Unfortunately, he did it in a really shit way and all the laughs that that wonderful sense of rhythm went out of window.