I was reading the latest issue of The Onion (my main source for objective news reporting these days) and came across a very interesting interview with George Carlin, which reminded me of this forum. (He was incorrectly associated with some right-wing ranting by a highly respected forum member here recently). In the interest of clearing the air regarding Carlin's political views, I thought I might pass along this excerpt...
Onion:Your material doesn't seem to favor any particular political side. It's not overtly leftist, and it's certainly not overtly right.
GC: Yeah, you know, actually, if you dropped me off a space platform onto the ground where a line was drawn, I would fall to the left side of it. I believe the difference between right and left is that the right, for the most part, the bulk of their philosophy is interested in property, and the rights of people to own property and gain and acquire and keep property. And I think on the left—though they blend and mix—on the left primarily you will find people who are more concerned about humans, and the human condition, and what can be done. And if I had any choice to make, I think I would always be on the side of, "Gee, can't we figure something out?"
Let's suppose we all just materialized on Earth and there was a bunch of potatoes on the ground, okay? There's just six of us. Only six humans. We come into a clearing and there's potatoes on the ground. Now, my instinct would be, let's everybody get some potatoes. "Everybody got a potato? Joey didn't get a potato! He's small, he can't hold as many potatoes. Give Joey some of your potatoes." "No, these are my potatoes!" That's the Republicans. "I collected more of them, I got a bigger pile of potatoes, they're mine. If you want some of them, you're going to have to give me something." "But look at Joey, he's only got a couple, they won't last two days." That's the fuckin' difference! And I'm more inclined to want to share and even out.
I understand the marketplace, but government is supposed to be here to redress the inequities of the marketplace. That's one of its functions. Not just to protect the nation, secure our security and all that shit. And not just to take care of great problems that are trans-state problems, that are national, but also to make sure that the inequalities of the marketplace are redressed by the acts of government. That's what welfare was about. There are people who really just don't have the tools, for whatever reason. Yes, there are lazy people. Yes, there are slackers. Yes, there's all of that. But there are also people who can't cut it, for any given reason, whether it's racism, or an educational opportunity, or poverty, or a fuckin' horrible home life, or a history of a horrible family life going back three generations, or whatever it is. They're crippled and they can't make it, and they deserve to rest at the commonweal. That's where my fuckin' passion lies.
But I'd rather give up on the whole thing. [Laughs.] Because I'm not going to be here to see it play out. I just kind of like talkin' about it.
Onion: Does it irritate you then to see all these e-mails floating around with your name on them, like the recent one about the Katrina victims, which attributes a bunch of callous anti-poor jokes to you?
GC: Yeah, the "Sittin' On My Butt In New Orleans" e-mail. I don't understand why a person would want to do that, unless they were thinking, "Let's embarrass George," or "Let's try to give George a bad name," or something. Here's what I want people to know, and if I did nothing else in this interview, I'll get this across: If anyone e-mails you something "by George Carlin," there's a 99 percent chance I did not write it. I didn't write "Paradox Of Our Time." I didn't write "George Carlin On Aging." I didn't write a eulogy for my wife after she died. I didn't write the New Orleans thing. I didn't write "I Am A Bad American." None of them.
You know what I've decided to do? I'm going to get a little cheap put-it-together-yourself website called NotMe.com. I haven't done this yet, so anyone who goes there won't find anything... and somebody will probably just steal the domain name now. [Laughs.] NotMe.com. What I'm going to do is mass-mail everybody on my e-mail list—all those people who know me and like me—and get them to mass-mail everybody on their list. I'm going to create a pyramid, Ponzi kind of a fuckin' scheme, completely blanketing the world by the multiplicity of people's mass mailing lists, with a little descriptive paragraph, nothing too long, just a little descriptive paragraph from me, telling them I did not write these things, and saying "Go to this website." I think that's the way to have a little fun and combat that.
Onion: What's bothersome about the Katrina and "I Am A Bad American" e-mails is that they sound kind of bullying, which raises a tricky question: Do you think it's possible to be truly funny from a position of power? For instance, Dennis Miller, who's always been a smart, funny comedian, has undergone a political conversion over the past decade, and now his comedy is rooted in his support of the Bush administration. And he seems less funny.
GC: For some reason, there aren't as many right-wing comedians as there are left or center or non-political. I read something about this recently that made sense, and I've forgotten what it said, of course. I have great respect for Dennis Miller's mind and ability as a comedian, but I agree that I am not as personally entertained his new material, which you describe as "coming from a position of power." Of course, he always did come from a position of presumed superiority, and I don't necessarily say that pejoratively. He did come from what appeared to be a smartass, superior platform. That's part of what made him work, as a stand-up.
I think your premise is correct, that it's harder to be funny from the position of power. That's a good description for it. Might be a couple other ways of describing it that I can't think of.
^^^Now that sounds like the George Carlin I know and admire.