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Four decades of George Carlin

Four decades of George Carlin — A look at the comedian’s memorable HBO stand-up specials

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Thirty-one years after his first HBO stand-up special, George Carlin is back live with his 14th, It’s Bad for Ya (March 1 at 10 p.m.). Here, the comic takes a serious look at four decades of laughs.

The ’70s
His first two specials, ’77’s On Location and ’78’s George Carlin Again!, were mostly filled with observational routines found on his previous four gold albums from earlier in the decade. ”I wanted to make sure a lot of things didn’t go completely wasted on the audio-only form.”
Timed Line
”The nice thing about putting things back in the supermarket…when you return an item, you know where you put it, don’t you? You put it anywhere you want!”

The ’80s
After a post-1978 ”creative and career drift,” Carlin’s manager booked him at Carnegie Hall for an ’82 special to show he was still relevant. ”That’s when I hit my stride.” Still doing mostly ”universal” humor (bits on Rice Krispies and saying ”Have a nice day”), ”social themes were definitely emerging, and I was developing an essay form.”
Timed Line
His bit about how life is just about finding a place for our stuff — ”That’s all your house is, a pile of stuff with a cover on it.”

The ’90s
After seeing how Sam Kinison ”raised the stakes on subject matter,” Carlin became more of a social commentator. For ’92’s Jammin’ in New York, ”I completely divorced myself from this species and culture, and realized I don’t give a f— about America and the human race. It freed me up as a writer.”
Timed Line
On environmentalism: ”The planet is fine. The people are f—ed… The planet’ll shake us off like a bad case of fleas.”

The ’00s
During ’05’s Life Is Worth Losing, Carlin — who has suffered chronic heart problems — had trouble breathing, unknowingly carrying 15 pounds of fluid in his lungs. Hospitalized weeks later, he briefly wondered if his stand-up career was over. Now healthy, with a pacemaker and implanted defibrillator, he wants his new special to prove he’s as sharp as ever. ”I want to say, ‘I’m 70, and I’m still bringing it.”’
Timed Line
New topics will include ”You have no rights,” so he’s clearly feeling pretty good.

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