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Take-Offs and Put-Ons


Earlier this year Longform reprinted this 1982 Playboy Interview with our man George Carlin.


Playboy: From 1962 until about 1970, you were a straight comic with a constantly ascending career. You continued working the Playboy Clubs, became a successful opening act in Las Vegas, then broke into TV. By your early 30s, you found yourself becoming rich and famous as a mainstream performer. But, as they say, were you happy?

Carlin: I was happy about my success, but I was also frustrated, because I was sublimating the long-standing angers that I still hadn’t begun to deal with. I mean, the night clubs were full of businessmen, and I hated them madly. But I had to repress my hatred, and that took its toll. I had a number of angry confrontations, including one at a Las Vegas hotel and another at a Playboy Club, and found myself back at the coffeehouses, where I’d started. And the colleges. Before Vegas, I’d been a folk comic on Bleecker Street in New York and Wells Street in Chicago. So when I made my break in 1970, I said, “I gotta go back to those people. They’ll understand me. They’ll let me sing my song.” And those audiences did make me feel comfortable. I fed on them. I got out all the anger I’d repressed in my teens and 20s. Looking back on it, I suspect that whole period from 1970 to 1976—the albums, the college tours, the cocaine—was all just a way of completing my adolescence. When I was really an adolescent, I was engaged and in the Air Force and making adult decisions. I never really got to finish the angry, screaming, rebellious part of my youth. Then, when I was in my 30s, the country seemed to go through its own adolescence. Anger and rebellion and drug experimentation and outrageous music and clothing—all the typical manifestations of adolescent behavior were suddenly present in American society, and I just fell right into it. The country’s mood allowed me to finish that chapter of my own life.


1 Mr OK Jazz Tokyo   ~  Dec 18, 2013 11:48 pm

Wow, spent all morning reading that interview. Great stuff.

2 The Mick536   ~  Dec 19, 2013 8:05 am

In one of his last public appearances, Carlin came to Burlington. It was the fifth or sixth time we had seen him in performance, in addition to watching his specials on HBO, listening to his records and discs, and reading his book. Arriving late to the Flynn Theatre, we sat in unoccupied seats, 2/3 of the way back. No one in front of us or next to us for a few seats. Carlin was trying out an act. He'd do a joke, look and listen to the audience and write a few notes. Sharon and I laughed. A few pushed us to tears as they say. He was Carlin, yelling at the audience, the middle class, the prayers and the people who take photographs when they travel. He did his fast talking and gross talking. People walked out. The people nearest to us complained to one another, beginning with his opening about c**T f**Ts. Lewis Black came here once. Same reaction from the crowd. But they did like Bill Maher this year and Jon Steward threee years ago. No sense of humor in VT unless its about woodchucks and chain saws.

3 GaryfromChevyChase   ~  Dec 19, 2013 9:28 am

[2] Mick - it's great comments by readers like you that make this blog so terrific! (And Alex isn't bad himself).

I only saw Carlin once, when he was college touring in the late 60's-early 70's. It was only 20 years later that I really enjoyed him, esp. the HBO shows.

BTW, Lewis Black is just terrific.

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