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Article

Chris Rock salutes George Carlin

Honoring the life and influence of the acerbic, timeless comedian, a ”true, true artist,” who passed away on June 22

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Chris Rock, George Carlin
Photofest; Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

(As told to Josh Wolk) People always compare me to Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor, or Bill Cosby, I guess just because of the black thing. But I always thought one of my biggest influences was George Carlin. ‘Cause I don’t do any characters. Richard becomes a deer [in Live in Concert] and I say, ”Okay, I’m f—ed.” Eddie does a spot-on Jackie Gleason; I’m like, ”F—. Can’t I just talk? What if I just think of clever things?” George did that.

He was the ultimate bulls— detector. Comedians love an even playing field in life, which there never is. Anytime there wasn’t one, he was quick to point it out. I love his bit about omelets: You kill a person, it’s an abortion; you kill a chicken, it’s an omelet. How did we become better than chickens? Who made this rule up?

George approached his comedy like a musician. Every couple of years, there’d be a new album and there’d be a new act. The reason most comedians suck is they get an act, and they do the same act for the rest of their lives. That’s 85 percent of comedians. No growth; they hang on to these jokes, and every year they become less funny. I’m talking big stars. Not George Carlin. He was an artist like Bob Dylan, Prince, Salvador Dalí and Jean-Michel Basquiat are artists. He didn’t sit on his laurels; he was like, ”I got work to do.” And what an incredible body of work, man. He was still bringing it at the end. No one in the history of the business has ever had that kind of edge that late in life. He was friends with the Alan Kings of the world, that generation. But his style is really more of someone of my generation, a younger, hipper guy. He’s like the voice for eight generations.