It did not come as a shock but I was still saddened to hear on Sunday that George Carlin is no longer with us. Sure, he was funny, but a lot of people make a living being funny. Carlin was just himself, and it just so happened that a lot of people found him funny so he made his living doing it. I get the idea he would have just done his own thing whether he got paid to do it, or not.
As I understand it, Carlin got his start as a straight, suit-and-tie joketeller type comedian in the late 50s (?). As the 60s and the social changes of the time gathered momentum, he reached a whole other audience that liked to be made to think and laugh, and wanted to hear more than just jokes. By the early 70s he gained notoriety for saying things about society that had been off-limits to funnymen before that time...well, had been Lenny Bruce, and he got himself all but blacklisted. Carlin got himself arrested and his act eventually got heard by the U.S. Supreme Court for obscenity. Were I a comic, I don't know if I would take that as a warning or a compliment, but Carlin never hid his pride for making history.
But this ought not be interpreted as a historical retrospective on Carlin's career....besides, I wasn't old enough to get his brand of humor until the late 70s, but once I was, I liked that he used what he saw and heard people doing and saying to make us laugh. And that is what I will miss about him. His onstage approach, such as it was, is closely linked to my own sense of humor...taking in the way people are and choosing to remember what makes me laugh above all else.
For those who have not heard the Carlin TV bit that landed him in the proverbial hot water, of for those like me that still find it funny even after so many times, here it is, along with a detailed breakdown of seven words that to this day still can't be uttered on regular TV.
The following is a verbatim transcript of "Filthy Words" (the George Carlin monologue at issue in the Supreme Court case of FCC v. Pacifica Foundation) prepared by the Federal Communications Commission:
Aruba-du, ruba-tu, ruba-tu. I was thinking about the curse words and the swear words, the cuss words and the words that you can't say, that you're not supposed to say all the time, ['cause] words or people into words want to hear your words. Some guys like to record your words and sell them back to you if they can, (laughter) listen in on the telephone, write down what words you say. A guy who used to be in Washington knew that his phone was tapped, used to answer, Fuck Hoover, yes, go ahead. (laughter) Okay, I was thinking one night about the words you couldn't say on the public, ah, airwaves, um, the ones you definitely wouldn't say, ever, [']cause I heard a lady say bitch one night on television, and it was cool like she was talking about, you know, ah, well, the bitch is the first one to notice that in the litter Johnie right (murmur) Right. And, uh, bastard you can say, and hell and damn so I have to figure out which ones you couldn't and ever and it came down to seven but the list is open to amendment, and in fact, has been changed, uh, by now, ha, a lot of people pointed things out to me, and I noticed some myself. The original seven words were, shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, and tits. Those are the ones that will curve your spine, grow hair on your hands and (laughter) maybe, even bring us, God help us, peace without honor (laughter) um, and a bourbon. (laughter) And now the first thing that we noticed was that word fuck was really repeated in there because the word motherfucker is a compound word and it's another form of the word fuck. (laughter) You want to be a purist it doesn't really -- it can't be on the list of basic words. Also, cocksucker is a compound word and neither half of that is really dirty. The word -- the half sucker that's merely suggestive (laughter) and the word cock is a half-way dirty word, 50% dirty -- dirty half the time, depending on what you mean by it. (laughter) Uh, remember when you first heard it, like in 6th grade, you used to giggle. And the cock crowed three times, heh (laughter) the cock -- three times. It's in the Bible, cock in the Bible. (laughter) And the first time you heard about a cock-fight, remember -- What? Huh? naw. It ain't that, are you stupid? man. (laughter, clapping) It's chickens, you know, (laughter) Then you have the four letter words from the old Anglo-Saxon fame. Uh, shit and fuck. The word shit, uh, is an interesting kind of word in that the middle class has never really accepted it and approved it. They use it like, crazy but it's not really okay. It's still a rude, dirty, old kind of gushy word. (laughter) They don't like that, but they say it, like, they say it like, a lady now in a middle-class home, you'll hear most of the time she says it as an expletive, you know, it's out of her mouth before she knows. She says, Oh shit oh shit, (laughter) oh shit. If she drops something, Oh, the shit hurt the broccoli. Shit. Thank you. (footsteps fading away) (papers ruffling)
Read it! (from audience)
Shit! (laughter) I won the Grammy, man, for the comedy album. Isn't that groovy? (clapping, whistling) (murmur) That's true. Thank you. Thank you man. Yeah. (murmur) (continuous clapping) Thank you man. Thank you. Thank you very much, man. Thank, no, (end of continuous clapping) for that and for the Grammy, man, [']cause (laughter) that's based on people liking it man, yeh, that's ah, that's okay man. (laughter) Let's let that go, man. I got my Grammy. I can let my hair hang down now, shit. (laughter) Ha! So! Now the word shit is okay for the man. At work you can say it like crazy. Mostly figuratively, Get that shit out of here, will ya? I don't want to see that shit anymore. I can't cut that shit, buddy. I've had that shit up to here. I think you're full of shit myself. (laughter) He don't know shit from Shinola. (laughter) you know that? (laughter) Always wondered how the Shinola people feel about that (laughter) Hi, I'm the new man from Shinola. (laughter) Hi, how are ya? Nice to see ya. (laughter) How are ya? (laughter) Boy, I don't know whether to shit or wind my watch. (laughter) Guess, I'll shit on my watch. (laughter) Oh, the shit is going to hit de fan. (laughter) Built like a brick shit-house. (laughter) Up, he's up shit's creek. (laughter) He's had it. (laughter) He hit me, I'm sorry. (laughter) Hot shit, holy shit, tough shit, eat shit, (laughter) shit-eating grin. Uh, whoever thought of that was ill. (murmur laughter) He had a shit-eating grin! He had a what? (laughter) Shit on a stick. (laughter) Shit in a handbag. I always like that. He ain't worth shit in a handbag. (laughter) Shitty. He acted real shitty. (laughter) You know what I mean? (laughter) I got the money back, but a real shitty attitude. Heh, he had a shit-fit. (laughter) Wow! Shit-fit. Whew! Glad I wasn't there. (murmur, laughter) All the animals -- Bull shit, horse shit, cow shit, rat shit, bat shit. (laughter) First time I heard bat shit, I really came apart. A guy in Oklahoma, Boggs, said it, man. Aw! Bat shit. (laughter) Vera reminded me of that last night, ah (murmur). Snake shit, slicker than owl shit. (laughter) Get your shit together. Shit or get off the pot. (laughter) I got a shit-load full of them. (laughter) I got a shit-pot full, all right. Shit-head, shit-heel, shit in your heart, shit for brains, (laughter) shit-face, heh (laughter) I always try to think how that could have originated; the first guy that said that. Somebody got drunk and fell in some shit, you know. (laughter) Hey, I'm shit-face. (laughter) Shitface, today. (laughter) Anyway, enough of that shit. (laughter) The big one, the word fuck that's the one that hangs them up the most. [']Cause in a lot of cases that's the very act that hangs them up the most. So, it's natural that the word would, uh, have the same effect. It's a great word, fuck, nice word, easy word, cute word, kind of. Easy word to say. One syllable, short u. (laughter) Fuck. (Murmur) You know, it's easy. Starts with a nice soft sound fuh ends with a kuh. Right? (laughter) A little something for everyone. Fuck (laughter) Good word. Kind of a proud word, too. Who are you? I am FUCK. (laughter) FUCK OF THE MOUNTAIN. (laughter) Tune in again next week to FUCK OF THE MOUNTAIN. (laughter) It's an interesting word too, [']cause it's got a double kind of a life -- personality -- dual, you know, whatever the right phrase is. It leads a double life, the word fuck. First of all, it means, sometimes, most of the time, fuck. What does it mean? It means to make love. Right? We're going to make love, yeh, we're going to fuck, yeh, we're going to fuck, yeh, we're going to make love. (laughter) we're really going to fuck, yeah, we're going to make love. Right? And it also means the beginning of life, it's the act that begins life, so there's the word hanging around with words like love, and life, and yet on the other hand, it's also a word that we really use to hurt each other with, man. It's a heavy. It's one that you have toward the end of the argument. (laughter) Right? (laughter) You finally can't make out. Oh, fuck you man. I said, fuck you. (laughter, murmur) Stupid fuck. (laughter) Fuck you and everybody that looks like you. (laughter) man. It would be nice to change the movies that we already have and substitute the word fuck for the word kill, wherever we could, and some of those movie cliches would change a little bit. Madfuckers still on the loose. Stop me before I fuck again. Fuck the ump, fuck the ump, fuck the ump, fuck the ump, fuck the ump. Easy on the clutch Bill, you'll fuck that engine again. (laughter) The other shit one was, I don't give a shit. Like it's worth something, you know? (laughter) I don't give a shit. Hey, well, I don't take no shit, (laughter) you know what I mean? You know why I don't take no shit? (laughter) [']Cause I don't give a shit. (laughter) If I give a shit, I would have to pack shit. (laughter) But I don't pack no shit cause I don't give a shit. (laughter) You wouldn't shit me, would you? (laughter) That's a joke when you're a kid with a worm looking out the bird's ass. You wouldn't shit me, would you? (laughter) It's an eight-year-old joke but a good one. (laughter) The additions to the list. I found three more words that had to be put on the list of words you could never say on television, and they were fart, turd and twat, those three. (laughter) Fart, we talked about, it's harmless It's like tits, it's a cutie word, no problem. Turd, you can't say but who wants to, you know? (laughter) The subject never comes up on the panel so I'm not worried about that one. Now the word twat is an interesting word. Twat! Yeh, right in the twat. (laughter) Twat is an interesting word because it's the only one I know of, the only slang word applying to the, a part of the sexual anatomy that doesn't have another meaning to it. Like, ah, snatch, box and pussy all have other meanings, man. Even in a Walt Disney movie, you can say, We're going to snatch that pussy and put him in a box and bring him on the airplane. (murmur, laughter) Everybody loves it. The twat stands alone, man, as it should. And two-way words. Ah, ass is okay providing you're riding into town on a religious feast day. (laughter) You can't say, up your ass. (laughter) You can say, stuff it! (murmur) There are certain things you can say its weird but you can just come so close. Before I cut, I, uh, want to, ah, thank you for listening to my words, man, fellow, uh space travelers. Thank you man for tonight and thank you also. (clapping whistling)
The Seven Words You Can Never Say On TV
by George Carlin
I love words. I thank you for hearing my words. I want to tell you something about words that I think is important. They're my work, they're my play, they're my passion.
Words are all we have, really. We have thoughts but thoughts are fluid, then we assign a word to a thought and we're stuck with that word for that thought, so be careful with words. I like to think that the same words that hurt can heal, it is a matter of how you pick them.
There are some people that are not into all the words. There are some that would have you not use certain words. There are 400,000 words in the English language and there are 7 of them you can't say on television. What a ratio that is. 399,993 to 7. They must really be bad. They'd have to be outrageous to be separated from a group that large. All of you over here, you 7, Bad Words. That's what they told us they were, remember? "That's a bad word!" No bad words, bad thoughts, bad intentions, and words.
You know the 7, don't you, that you can't say on television? "Shit, Piss, Fuck, Cunt, Cocksucker, Motherfucker, and Tits" Those are the heavy seven. Those are the ones that'll infect your soul, curve your spine, and keep the country from winning the war. "Shit, Piss, Fuck, Cunt, CockSucker, MotherFucker, and Tits" Wow! ...and Tits doesn't even belong on the list. That is such a friendly sounding word. It sounds like a nickname, right? "Hey, Tits, come here, man. Hey Tits, meet Toots. Toots, Tits. Tits, Toots." It sounds like a snack, doesn't it? Yes, I know, it is a snack. I don't mean your sexist snack. I mean New Nabisco Tits!, and new Cheese Tits, Corn Tits, Pizza Tits, Sesame Tits, Onion Tits, Tater Tits. "Betcha Can't Eat Just One."
That's true. I usually switch off. But I mean, that word does not belong on the list. Actually none of the words belong on the list, but you can understand why some of them are there. I'm not
completely insensitive to people's feelings. I can understand why some of those words got on the list, like Cocksucker and Motherfucker. Those are heavyweight words. There is a lot going on
there. Besides the literal translation and the emotional feeling. I mean, they're just busy words. There's a lot of syllables to contend with. And those Ks, those are aggressive sounds. They just jump out at you like "cocksucker, motherfucker. cocksucker, motherfucker." It's like an assault on you.
We mentioned Shit earlier, and 2 of the other 4-letter Anglo-Saxon words are Piss and Cunt, which go together of course. A little accidental humor there. The reason that Piss and Cunt are on the list is because a long time ago, there were certain ladies that said "Those are the 2 I am not going to say. I don't mind Fuck and Shit but 'P' and 'C' are out.", which led to such stupid sentences as "Okay you fuckers, I'm going to tinkle now." And, of course, the word Fuck. I don't really, well that's more accidental humor, I don't wanna get into that now because I think it takes to long. But I do mean that. I think the word Fuck is a very important word. It is the beginning of life, yet it is a word we use to hurt one another quite often.
People much wiser than I am said, "I'd rather have my son watch a film with 2 people making love than 2 people trying to kill one another. I, of course, can agree. It is a great sentence. I wish I knew who said it first. I agree with that but I like to take it a step further. I'd like to substitute the word Fuck for the word Kill in all of those movie cliches we grew up with. "Okay, Sheriff, we're gonna Fuck you now, but we're gonna Fuck you slow." So maybe next year I'll have a whole fuckin' ramp on the N word.
I hope so. Those are the 7 you can never say on television, under any circumstances. You just cannot say them ever ever ever. Not even clinically. You cannot weave them in on the panel with Doc, and Ed, and Johnny. I mean, it is just impossible. Forget those 7. They're out.
But there are some 2-way words, those double-meaning words. Remember the ones you giggled at in sixth grade? "...And the cock CROWED 3 times" "Hey, tha cock CROWED 3 times. ha ha ha ha. Hey, it's in the Bible. ha ha ha ha. There are some 2-way words, like it is okay for Curt Gowdy to say "Roberto Clemente has 2 balls on him.", but he can't say "I think he hurt his balls on that play, Tony. Don't you? He's holding them. He must've hurt them, by God."
And the other 2-way word that goes with that one is Prick. It's okay if it happens to your finger. You can prick your finger but don't finger your prick. No, no.