Jun 24, 2008
by Paul Krassner
n December 1962, when Lenny Bruce was arrested for obscenity at the
Gate of Horn in Chicago, the police broke open his candy bars,
looking for dope. They checked the IDs of audience members, including
George Carlin, who told the cops, "I don't believe in IDs." Then they
arrested him for disorderly conduct, dragged him along by the seat of
his pants and hoisted into the police wagon.
"What are you doing here?" Lenny asked.
"I didn't want to show them my ID."
"You schmuck," said Lenny.
Lenny and Carlin had similar points of view--for example, they were
both outspoken about the decriminalization of drugs--and they were
both self-educated, but their working styles were different. Lenny
didn't write his material, it evolved on stage, whereas Carlin wrote
all his routines and then memorized 'em. Although both were
unbelievers as far as religion was concerned, Lenny came from a
Jewish background, and Carlin came from an Irish Catholic background.
Susie Bright, who first heard Carlin when she was in 7th grade,
recalls playing his Class Clown album for her mother, "a woman whose
first 20 years were entirely dominated by the Irish Catholic
Church--and it was a comic exorcism for her. She peed in her pants!
She was cured in one LP [long-playing vinyl record]!"
Carlin was a generous friend, and such a sweet man. When I performed
in Los Angeles, he sent a limousine to pick me up at the airport, and
I stayed at his home. More recently, when I opened for him at the
Warner-Grand Theater in San Pedro, California, we were hanging around
in his dressing room, where he was nibbling from a vegetable plate. I
watched as he continued to be genuinely gracious with every fan who
stopped by. If they wanted his autograph, he would gladly sign his
name. If they wanted to be photographed with him, he would assume the
pose. If they wanted to have a little chat, he indulged them with congeniality.
"You really show respect for everbody," I observed.
"Well," he responded, "that's just the way I would want to be treated."
As a performer, Carlin was uncompromising, knowing that his audience
trusted him not to be afraid of offending them. Who else would have
posed this rhetorical question: "Why are there no recreational drugs
in suppository form?" I was pleased to inform him that teenage girls
have been experimenting with tampons dipped in vodka as a way of
getting intoxicated without their parents detecting booze on their breath.
Carlin provided an introduction to one of my books, Murder At the
Conspiracy Convention. Referring to the 1960s, he wrote: "As America
entered the Magic Decade, I was leading a double life. I had been a
rule-bender and law-breaker since first grade. A highly developed
disregard for authority got me kicked out of three schools, the altar
boys, the choir, summer camp, the Boy Scouts and the Air Force. I
didn't trust the police or the government, and I didn't like bosses
of any kind. I had become a pot smoker at 13 (1950), an unheard-of
act in an old-fashioned Irish neighborhood. It managed to get me
through my teens...
"My affection for pot continued and my disregard for standard values
increased, but they lagged behind my need to succeed. The Playboy
Club, Merv Griffin, Ed Sullivan and the Copacabana were all part of a
path I found uncomfortable but necessary during the early 1960s. But
as the decade churned along and the country changed, I did too.
Despite working in 'establishment' settings, as a veteran malcontent
I found myself hanging out in coffee houses and folk clubs with
others who were out-of-step people who fell somewhere between beatnik
and hippie. Hair got longer, clothes got stranger, music got better.
It became more of a strain for me to work for straight audiences. I
took acid and mescaline. My sense of being on the outside
intensified. I changed.
"All through this period I was sustained and motivated by The
Realist, Paul Krassner's incredible magazine of satire, revolution
and just plain disrespect. It arrived every month, and with it, a
fresh supply of inspiration. I can't overstate how important it was
to me at the time. It allowed me to see that others who disagreed
with the American consensus were busy expressing those feelings and
using risky humor to do so. Paul's own writing, in particular, seemed
daring and adventurous to me; it took big chances and made important
arguments in relentlessly funny ways. I felt, down deep, that maybe I
had some of that in me, too; that maybe I could be using my skills to
better express my beliefs. The Realist was the inspiration that kept
pushing me to the next level; there was no way I could continue
reading it and remain the same."
You can imagine how incredibly honored I felt.
George Carlin was once asked how he wanted to die.
"I'd like to explode spontaneously in someone's living room," he
replied. "That, to me, is the way to go out."
And, through his CDs, DVDs and books, he does indeed continue to
explode spontaneously in living rooms across the country.
Paul Krassner's The Realist attracted a deep counterculture following
in the '60s and '70s. He is a founding member of the Yippies. He is
the author of Porn Soup and One Hand Jerking: Reports From an
Investigative Satirist, and publisher of the Disneyland Memorial Orgy
poster, all available at paulkrassner.com. This is his fourth Yahoo
Music blog post for Arthur, the transgenerational counterculture
magazine available free every other month across North America.