Stand-Up Comedy by George Carlin


   

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This section is for stand-up comedy by George Carlin. By default the stand-up sets are presented starting with those ranking highest on the laugh-o-meter, but you can also sort them by year, title or IMDB rating.

About George

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George Carlin at USC I only discovered George Carlin in 2010, two years after his death. The first DVD of his that I watched—George's Best Stuff—made me howl. I plan to watch and review everything of his over the coming years.

Those who are interested in George's thoughts as mush as in his humor will want to watch Jammin' in New York, which, though not one of his funniest, brilliantly showcases the critical thinker at work.

George Carlin is said to have been born on Wednesday 12 May 1937 and to have died on Sunday 22 June 2008, at the age of 71 years, 1 months and 9 days.

Stand-Up Comedy by George Carlin sorted by Laugh-o-meter (descending)


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George Carlin was credited as writer and actor in the following stand-up comedy set.
At the time, he would have been about 59 years old.
George Carlin: George's Best Stuff DVDGeorge Carlin: George's Best Stuff
      1996 | USA | Laughs: 9.6 | imdb: 8.5
      

One of the funniest DVDs I watched in years. I had to pause it several times as it gave me some of these hard laughters that make you gasp for air. This DVD covers several periods of George Carlin's career. Among the several gems on this disc, the piece about dogs sticks in my memory: it nearly killed me. (Last viewed: August 2010)

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George Carlin was credited as writer and actor in the following stand-up comedy set.
At the time, he would have been about 40 years old.
George Carlin: George Carlin at USC DVDGeorge Carlin: George Carlin at USC (a.k.a An Evening with George Carlin)
      1977 | USA | Laughs: 8.0 | imdb: 7.9
      wikipedia

In the first of Carlin's twelve HBO specials, you see George at his handsomest—two months short of forty—on a simple but groovy 1970s set. His animated face can sometimes remind you of Russell Crowe or Bill Murray. My favorite bits are those about shopping in the supermarket; how people sometimes miss a step on a staircase; getting dogs to look at something; what it was like, as a kid, to be small in a world built for big people; and portions of the very long (a bit too long for my taste) segment about strange words and dirty words. (Last viewed: August 2010)

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George Carlin was credited as writer and actor in the following stand-up comedy set.
At the time, he would have been about 51 years old.
George Carlin: What Am I Doing in New Jersey? DVDGeorge Carlin: What Am I Doing in New Jersey?
      1988 | USA | Laughs: 7.5 | imdb: 8.3
      wikipedia

The show starts with a long boring introduction where George gets lost in a cab to New Jersey, then with a rather crass, long warm-up. But then George launches into several routines that had me laughing pretty hard: one where he develops the theme that "America is a great country but a strange culture", and one about tricks to keep clerks on their toes. (Last viewed: September 2010)

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George Carlin was credited as writer and actor in the following stand-up comedy set.
At the time, he would have been about 47 years old.
George Carlin: Carlin on Campus DVDGeorge Carlin: Carlin on Campus
      1984 | USA | Laughs: 7.0 | imdb: 8.1
      wikipedia

Some of Carlin's show repeat old material. I like that most of the material here is original. There is a long and effective segment on driving. And even though I'm not a sports head, I love Carlin's upbeat-downbeat comparison of baseball and football. (Last viewed: October 2010)

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George Carlin was credited as writer and actor in the following stand-up comedy set.
At the time, he would have been about 45 years old.
George Carlin: Carlin at Carnegie DVDGeorge Carlin: Carlin at Carnegie
      1982 | USA | Laughs: 6.5 | imdb: 8.2
      wikipedia

In this show George wears a spectacular green outfit, and that's a good thing because in the beginning there is not much else to hold your attention. It was a good fifteen minutes until I cracked a laugh. Before then, the funniest thing was to see members of the audience roaring at jokes that completely flopped in our living room. I should also say that I don't care for the faces Carlin makes (in this show and others) to mock people whom he wants to portray as having a low intellect. Why does he have to cross his eyes? Is strabismus a sign of low IQ? I don't suffer from that condition, but the mime annoys me—I find it to be stupid, mean, gratuitously offensive comedy. This show has other weak bits: one of these interminable sessions where George pretends to read "the news"; and a variation on his classic bit about the words you cannot say on television. It only felt like an hour long. So why the 3.25 stars? I really like the part about fussy eaters. And for me, the segment about dogs (also on George's Best Stuff) may be his best skits ever. It is followed by a few minutes about cats, also George at his best. (Last viewed: March 2011)

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George Carlin was credited as writer and actor in the following stand-up comedy set.
At the time, he would have been about 49 years old.
George Carlin: Playin' with Your Head DVDGeorge Carlin: Playin' with Your Head
      1986 | USA | Laughs: 6.0 | imdb: 8.2
      wikipedia

I don't particularly care for the show's wrapper, a film noir segment called "The Envelope", but the show itself delivers laughs. Some of the jokes in the show don't work for me, but several segments (such as those on greetings and lost things) are quite effective. (Last viewed: August 2010)

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George Carlin was credited as writer and actor in the following stand-up comedy set.
At the time, he would have been about 62 years old.
George Carlin: You Are All Diseased DVDGeorge Carlin: You Are All Diseased
      1999 | USA | Laughs: 6.0 | imdb: 8.6
      wikipedia

An older George Carlin seems wholly disillusioned with the human species. The playfulness of the earlier years is gone, replaced by a caustic anger that still triggers laughter, if you can take the violence.

My favorite themes on this DVD: children (how parents make too much fuss about them), religion (why George worships the sun and prefers fairy tales). Other themes: honesty in American society, Bill Clinton, the fuss over germs, airport security overkill (pre 9/11). (Last viewed: August 2010)

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George Carlin was credited as writer and actor in the following stand-up comedy set.
At the time, he would have been about 55 years old.
George Carlin: Jammin' in New York DVDGeorge Carlin: Jammin' in New York
      1992 | USA | Laughs: 6.0 | imdb: 8.8
      wikipedia

Although it is not one of the funniest, this is one of Carlin's very best shows. In some sets, the material feels a bit used and tired. Not in this one. Masterfully, George weaves his comical critique of assorted topics offering windows into human stupidity, topics such as American foreign policy, superfluous words, safety instructions in airplanes, golf, and the planet. By watching this set two or three times, a young mind could improve her thinking far more than by reading the New York Times for a year. A classic for the ages. (Last viewed: October 2013)

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George Carlin was credited as writer and actor in the following stand-up comedy set.
At the time, he would have been about 41 years old.
George Carlin: Again! DVDGeorge Carlin: Again!
      1978 | USA | Laughs: 5.9 | imdb: 8.3
      wikipedia

A good show that I would not bother watching if you've seen George's Best Stuff. A gorgeous circular stage shows us a forty-year-old Carlin at his most animated as he whirls around to face different sections of the audience. I liked the segments about time measurements and about Al the weatherman. The show ends with what is perhaps the longest and best taped rendition of the "dirty words" routine. The credits roll as Carlin dances madly on the stage to an Irish tune, giving the audience another excuse to exhaust itself in applause. (Last viewed: September 2010)

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George Carlin was credited as writer and actor in the following stand-up comedy set.
At the time, he would have been about 64 years old.
George Carlin: Complaints and Grievances posterGeorge Carlin: Complaints and Grievances
      2001 | USA | Laughs: 4.2 (Laugh and Smile) | imdb: 8.5
      wikipedia

Recorded two months after 9/11, this show is the last before George Carlin gets (understandably) upset with US policy and makes the American way of life the focus of his sets.

I see on my notes that there were "disgusting bits" in the earlier part, but the overall impression I was left with was one of awe at George's outstanding command of the language. I laughed once, chuckled a few times and smiled a lot.

Themes included 9/11 clich├ęs, farts, hit-and-runs, scabs, people who ought to be killed and the ten commandments. (Last viewed: September 2018)

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George Carlin was credited as writer and actor in the following stand-up comedy set.
At the time, he would have been about 71 years old.
George Carlin: It's Bad for Ya! DVDGeorge Carlin: It's Bad for Ya!
      2008 | USA | Laughs: 3.7 (Chuckle) | imdb: 8.6
      wikipedia

During this set, George looks and sounds physically uncomfortable. He's stopped smoking, he's gained weight, and he dies four months later of a heart attack. He was only 71 years old, but I'd guess that he had already said everything he had to say. Once you've expressed your disgust for people's overwhelming lack of critical thinking, it doesn't matter that things get worse and that a bush gets chased by a trump, you have nowhere else to go.

The delivery is not quite as fluid as on the previous sets, but the show is entertaining. Up to his last set, George was a funnier comedian than most of his younger colleagues. If you're a fan, you won't want to miss this set, not just as a touching goodbye to someone who'd been making people laugh since his handsome looks burned the video tape, but simply because it's good.

Fittingly, death is very present in the show. The themes include friends who die, what people do in heaven, trite sayings such as 'every child is special' or 'children are our future', having to listen to rubbish stories, the lack of critical thinking, the saying 'god bless America', swearing on the Bible, and rights. (Last viewed: September 2018)

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George Carlin was credited as writer and actor in the following stand-up comedy set.
At the time, he would have been about 53 years old.
George Carlin: Doin' It Again DVDGeorge Carlin: Doin' It Again
      1990 | USA | Laughs: 3.0 | imdb: 8.5
      wikipedia

Over the past month I've been watching a lot of stand-up comedy. After seeing so many faces, tonight I felt like resuming my quest (started over two years ago) of watching all the Carlin specials in chronological order. This show was next on the "to watch" list. Within fifteen seconds of stepping on stage, George had taken control of the crowd. Having seen many mediocre acts recently, and not having seen George in over a year, I was initially delighted to see George again. That feeling wore off, though, as I didn't laugh hard, and as much of the material felt similar to bits I'd seen George do before. Much of the show focused on language—expressions in the American idiom that George wished he didn't have to hear. My favorite bits were perhaps those about dogs. A fairly clever set, but not laugh-out-loud comedy. (Last viewed: January 2013)

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George Carlin was credited as writer and actor in the following stand-up comedy set.
At the time, he would have been about 59 years old.
George Carlin: Back in Town DVDGeorge Carlin: Back in Town
      1996 | USA | Laughs: 2.5 (Chuckle) | imdb: 8.7
      wikipedia

On the one hand, I loved the show. I hadn't watched George in a number of years, and I loved rediscovering his fast and sharp wit. On the other hand, I only chuckled a few times and never really laughed. Who knows, perhaps with age I'm just having a harder time cracking a laugh.

One thing that struck me was hearing a couple of jokes that I'd also heard on recent sets by other comedians—twenty years later! This suggests either that George's material has become such an integral part of our culture that we no longer notice when we borrow from it, as with Greek philosophy; or that some comedians are mining his older shows for material. The latter seems like a more reasonable assumption.

The bit about camcorders feels both dated and painfully current. So does the bit about selfish, ignorant leaders. Other themes include abortion, pedophile catholics priests, the sanctity of life, capital punishment, farts, idioms. (Last viewed: September 2018)

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George Carlin was credited as writer and actor in the following stand-up comedy set.
At the time, he would have been about 60 years old.
George Carlin: 40 Years of Comedy DVDGeorge Carlin: 40 Years of Comedy
      1997 | USA | Laughs: 2.0 (Light-Hearted) | imdb: 8.5
      wikipedia

This set starts out with a fifteen-minute retrospective of George's career up to that point, a retrospective that isn't particularly funny. Then there are thirty minutes of stand-up which is not exceptional for George but has good moments and spans such themes as advertising, religion and food marketing. The final thirteen minutes or so is an interview of George by Jon Stewart, the host of the show, who makes him reflect on his craft and art. That was my favorite part because it's a chance to get to know George a bit more intimately, behind the mask of the comedian that he always wears on his HBO specials. (Last viewed: September 2018)

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George Carlin was credited as writer and actor in the following stand-up comedy set.
At the time, he would have been about 68 years old.
George Carlin: Life Is Worth Losing DVDGeorge Carlin: Life Is Worth Losing
      2005 | USA | Laughs: 1.0 | imdb: 8.4
      wikipedia

This is a special show in that its format stands out from George's usual. I want to say that it's more a long poem than a stand-up comedy set, but that would be confusing. At heart, it's a great long rant about America, but in this globalized world most of the things Carlin says could apply to most places. Some of the themes include suicide, murder, torture, consumption, education, parents and disaster. I had planned to watch the 74 minutes in two sittings but stayed hypnotized by George Carlin's amazing skill, the extent of which I had forgotten. No laughs, but an unmissable set for Carlin fans and anyone with a taste for social commentary. (Last viewed: September 2018)

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