Monday, June 23, 2008

The Funniest Man in The Room

There were very few rooms in which George Carlin was not the funniest guy in the room. He was also usually the brightest, wittiest, and most friendly. He will be missed.

I had the opportunity of seeing Carlin perform live in Toledo, Ohio about 18 years ago. I was headlining a now defunct comedy club in the ‘burbs of Toledo, and he was a major theater downtown. There was only a few hotels in downtown Toledo where he could be staying, so I called them all.

Bingo! Luckily on my second try, I found his hotel and was connected to his room.

Now, I knew I only had about ten seconds to introduce myself, and get him laughing so he would talk with me. So, when his manager Gerald Hamza answered the phone, I immediately introduced myself as Lazlo Toth, a father who had a son who was going to be at the show that night.

I asked him if he knew if George had intended to use the word “motherfucker” in show, as I was concerned that my son might be offended. Hamza was laughing knowing that 'Lazlo Toth' was an alias used by Don Novello/Father Guido Sarducci. He put George Carlin on the phone. I had their attention, and when Carlin got on the phone, I introduced myself as a fellow comedian. He invited me backstage after his show. He could not have been nicer.

His concert show was especially great. After my set, I saw the final thirty minutes of his set. He closed with the “Seven Dirty Words you can’t say on TV”. And he did say “Motherfucker”, by the way.

After the set, I went back stage to his dressing room. And the first thing he did was ask me how my set went. And they he told me to go fuck myself for stealing people for my show, that he should have had at his.

We talked the comedy scene in general; about John Belushi, and about mutual friend and comedian, Chris Rush. He read to me some lines he had tried out that night for the first time, and he asked me my opinion. Then he said, “Well, I recorded the set, so tomorrow on the flight out, I will listen to it."

He treated me as as an equal and apologized for not being able to see my show. A true professional and a gentleman. I spent about 45 minutes with him, and he wished me well.

Years before, for a final thesis paper in a graduate class in media and the law, I did an analysis of the Supreme Court case that made him famous----the FCC v. PACIFICA FOUNDATION, 438 U.S. 726 (1978)----the “Seven Dirty Words” case. As a future law student obsessed with the First Amendment and stand-up comedy, it was an intellectual feast to do such a paper.

And so, George Carlin is now gone. He came in at Number Two on the Comedy Central list of the Top Hundred funniest stand-up comedians of all time---after Richard Pryor’s Number One, and before Lenny Bruce at Number Three. I am sure where ever he is, Pryor is laughing his ass off, and is saying, “Motherfucker. You’re only number two.”

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