REVIEW: George Carlin – I Kinda Like It When a Lotta People Die.
On September 9 and 10, 2001, the great George Carlin recorded a comedy special that was to air shortly after on HBO. As with most of George’s material, it contained some dark social commentary, some of which revolved around the premise of him “kinda liking it when a lotta people die,” which was also the title of the special. The world-changing events that took place the very next day rendered the special impossible to air – for fairly obvious reasons – and much of the other material found its way onto a re-filmed special called Complaints and Grievances. Carlin seemed rather fond of both the bit and the title, and so planned to reuse it in a 2004 special. Then Hurricane Katrina hit.
So here we are now fifteen years later, and although George is sadly no longer with us, he has finally got his wish, and thanks to his daughter Kelly Carlin (a talented artist in her own right), his manager Jerry Hamza and his comedy producer Rocco Urbisci, George has finally released a comedy album titled I Kinda Like it When a Lotta People Die.
The audio-only album is a bit of a compilation of various Carlin material, starting with some home recordings of rants he made way back in 1957, some material from the original Complaints and Grievances special, and of course, the routine in question. In usual Carlin fashion, he somehow manages to be relevant to issues facing the world right now – decades before his time this man was – with a rather interesting take on police brutality and his overall distrust of the establishment.
Carlin doesn’t do one-liners or go for cheap laughs, it was just never his style. He was a social commentator more than a ‘funny ha ha’ comedian, and most of his material challenges you first, and then makes you laugh at the absurdity of it all.
So about the routine at the centre of all this; was it that bad? When the horrific tragedy of 911 happened, there were some extreme and sometimes crazy responses, and not all of them came from the US President. For Australian readers, you may well know the story of local rock band Shihad (they are New Zealanders, but because they are good, we claim them. Unlike New Zealand’s own Keith Urban), who were on the verge of cracking into the lucrative US market around this time. Unfortunately for them, the name Shihad was just a little too close to that other word, and in order to play in America, they had to change their name to Pacifier, which did not help their cause at all. That one was an over reaction. This one? Well, to be perfectly honest, it was the right call to scrap this special. The routine is dark; really, really dark, even by Carlin’s standards. There is no way in the world this could have played to any audience in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks.
The other strangely coincidental piece comes during a bit titled The Fecal Differential, where Carlin discusses the class war between going to the toilet on a plane in First Class versus doing the same in ‘Coach.’ This segues into a discussion about all the farts that circulate within the cabin of a passenger jet, and how the build up causes planes to explode. “You know who gets blamed? Osama bin Laden. The FBI is looking for explosives. They should be looking for minute traces of rice and bok choy.”
Yes, he not only joked about mass death, he also joked about Osama Bin Laden. And exploding planes. On September 10, 2001.
Giving this album a rating is difficult for me because let’s face it, who the fuck am I to judge such greatness? It would be a stretch (and a lie) to call this Carlin’s finest work, but it’s still Carlin, and it’s still very good. Based on that, I’ve probably bumped it up one star more than my initial feeling rated it, but I’m comfortable with doing that on this occasion.
If you’re a fan of this amazing man, then you really owe it yourself to head over to iTunes or Amazon, and buy the special George Carlin so desperately wanted the world to hear.
Especially if you have an Uncle Dave.
* EDIT: Thank you to the lovely Kelly Carlin, who pointed out to me on Twitter that this is an Album, not a special as I had originally called it.