Mr. Carlin
talks about
his new book
Napalm and
Silly Putty
(Hyperion) .


Previous Writings:

Sometimes a
Little Brain
Can Help



  Friday, April 27, 2001 at the Writer's Guild Theatre, Los Angeles

ANDREA GROSSMAN: Good evening, and thank you for coming to tonight’s WritersBloc program with George Carlin and Tony Hendra. I am Andrea Grossman, founder of WritersBloc, a non-profit author lecture series dedicated to bringing to Los Angeles my favorite writers and comic icons. I hope you all realize what a great deal you have got here tonight. Carlin plays Las Vegas on a regular basis and tonight, you don’t even have to tip the host to get a good seat.

I’d like to thank a few people who contributed so much making tonight’s program possible. Thanks as always, to my volunteers and to Debra Frankel. Thanks again to George’s publicist, Breene Wesson for agreeing to a detour in George’s usually frantic show schedule so he could talk about his new book, Napalm and Silly Putty. Also to Cheryl Rhodin and the Board of Directors of the Writer’s Guild of America, West for making the theatre available for us tonight. Of course, thanks to George Carlin, for writing the stuff he does, and to Tony Hendra, for coming here from New York to be with us and to talk to George.

Now for tonight. It says right here on the book jacket . . . George, could you hold your book up?


GROSSMAN: . . . that George Carlin has been writing and performing comedy since 1960. Talk about understatement. It would be more accurate to say that George Carlin has been aggravating government agencies, corporate America and religious institutions since 1960, including everyone’s favorite cross-dresser, J. Edgar Hoover. Carlin is a comedian who lives to cross the line, and is a member of an elite group of subversive comics that have been embraced by the mainstream: he was just recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Comedy Awards.

Even at a time in our social history when every comic was satirizing our values, government and culture, Carlin’s comedy was different. His comedy has always been a mix of satire and ridicule without being gratuitously mean and nasty, and has sort of a cheerful nihilism. He has a great line, "If you think there’s a solution – you’re part of the problem." Of course, everybody remembers "The Seven Dirty Words You Can’t Say on Television" which launched lawsuits against Pacifica Radio, and which ultimately lead to a change in programming regulations and communications law in the United States.

And even if we put aside George Carlin’s riffs on politics and religion, plenty of brilliant material remains. When I was too young to appreciate his brand of political humor, George was one of the first performers to make be laugh. There’s his DJ on his favorite radio station – Wonderful Wino – and Al Street, the Hippy-Dippy Weatherman . . . After 40-odd years of social comment, we still turn to George Carlin, to reflect the banality and nonsense as we stumble along with our lives. In his new book, Napalm and Silly Putty, he devotes a few particularly fabulous pages to what we listen to when we are boarding an airplane.

It’s not only a wake-up call to listen to the stuff we are fed all the time, but it’s also one of the funniest semantic exercises I’ve ever seen or read. What he does with carry-on luggage, for example – and that’s c-a-r-r-i-o-n, as in dead animals – "seatback forward" as in weird erotic acrobatics during the safety lecture – he’s changed the way you fly for the rest of your life. You must read it, and the rest of the book too, of course. There’s a huge amount of absolutely great stuff, and I especially recommend the parts about how swimming in sewage ruins your immune system and his exclusive interview with Jesus – he finally got the guy to open up.

Needless to say, just like his carrion, Carlin requires special handling. Tony Hendra and George Carlin are good friends. George thinks that Tony is one of the smartest and most influential critics of culture around. He was one of the original editors of the National Lampoon, and has written several books, whose titles will tell you more about him than I possibly could: The 90s, A Look Back, which doesn’t seem like any big deal, except that it was actually published in 1989. Or, The 80s, A Look Back, published in 1979.

There’s The Gigawit Dictionary of the English Language, which satirizes e-talk and the Internet component of our lives. Hendra’s definition of the Internet is so obvious: it’s a female intern . . . He’s also the author of a book entitled, Going Too Far: The Rise and Demise of Sick, Gross, Black, Sophomoric, Weirdo, Pinko, Anarchist, Underground, Anti-Establishment Humor, and covers what he calls "boomer humor," including Mort Sahl, Lenny Bruce and the legendary improv group The Committee.

Here’s what will happen tonight. George and Tony will talk. The audience can ask questions when they’re through. George’s latest book, Napalm and Silly Putty will be for sale in the lobby, courtesy of Dutton’s Books. What could possibly be a more perfect Mother’s Day gift than Napalm and Silly Putty? And while you’re at it, pick one up for Dad! Even if you bought several, you’d still be doing better than if you schlepped to Las Vegas, and at this theatre, there’s no two-drink minimum! I’m so delighted to present George Carlin and Tony Hendra.

TONY HENDRA: Good evening. I’d just like to say that I’m appearing tonight even though I am a member of a rival union, I’m a member of WGA, East. But I’m here mainly because I’ve known George Carlin for four decades, and even though we exchange obscene and often abusive e-mails on almost a daily basis, I still believe him to be America’s Greatest Living Comedian.

CARLIN: As alive as he ever was.

HENDRA: After 40 years of puking down the nice clean tux of conventional wisdom, George is uncorrupted, uncompromised, not particularly wealthy, live, untelevised, raw – not pre-cooked – his glorious nihilism is the exact opposite of "comedy about nothing." Most important of all, unlike all the comics that I’ve loved and learned from, he is not dead. Thank you for not being dead, George.

I actually think that death is always a good place to start, don’t you?

CARLIN: And work our way towards better things.

HENDRA: One of my favorite dead comics, Lenny Bruce, always said that the best humor was about the things that we’re not supposed to laugh about. Death obviously tops that list.


HENDRA: One of may favorite routines, well, I wouldn’t call it a routine actually, it was more like a symphony, was a thing you did a couple of years ago on HBO, about abortion and the death penalty.

CARLIN: Abortion, the sanctity of life, which I do not understand at all, and the death penalty. I’m sort of thinking about this Timothy McVeigh drama, this spectacle of people voting on whether they should be allowed to watch, or certain people should be allowed to watch . . . You know, American’s take all the wrong things seriously. Guys like Timothy McVeigh – you don’t kill them, you don’t play into his hands. First of all, he’s a Veteran. So that was his inspiration. And let’s not forget: it’s a first offense!

So he ought to be given – as in a traffic ticket – a warning. Sometimes with people like this, all they really need is a good talking to. Same thing is true about Jeffrey Dahmer. I said at the time, "Listen Tim, Jeff – nobody thinks you’re funny, okay? Nobody thinks you’re funny, stop drawing attention to yourself." In the case of Dahmer, you say, "If you eat one more Cambodian teenager, you’ll have to be fined. You wanna find yourself out on the highway, picking up papers?"

Capital punishment is such an interesting . . . American’s don’t have the courage of their own convictions; to take this thing to its logical end. To really make something out of this. Go ahead, put these things on television. I’d like to use the book in a couple of specific occasions. This is one of them. I’ll read, because the ideas took a little while to get in this form, and I don’t want to paraphrase them – it spoils it.

Most people in this country want to expand the death penalty to include drug dealers. Drug dealers aren’t afraid to die. They’re already killing each other by the hundreds on the streets every day, in gang wars, turf wars – they’re not afraid to die. It means very little to kill a person who’s not afraid to die. If you want to stop the drug trade, you’d kill these bankers who are laundering the drug money. Let’s execute some of these white, middle-class Republican bankers. And I’m not talking about any of this soft stuff like lethal injection, I mean crucifixion!

HENDRA: Have you ever noticed that lethal injection is actually a form of passive crucifixion? They put them on the table and stretch their arms out . . .

CARLIN: And what’s nice is – they swab your arm with alcohol . . . We’re afraid of infection! We’re so afraid of germs!

Certainly Jews and Christians can both enjoy crucifixion from a certain standpoint. I could take it a step further, I would crucify them upside-down, and I would let them be naked. Naked and upside-down once a week during halftime of the Monday Night Football game! This is a marketing country, this is a country of popular culture – let’s play into it. Wouldn’t you like to hear Dennis Miller explain why the nails have to go in at a certain angle?

If we start nailing one of these white bankers a week, and the drug trade is going to start going down. And we could go further, because I think there are some creative possibilities here.

HENDRA: Different forms of capital punishment?

CARLIN: Yes, different forms of capital punishment. Some are a little more sophisticated. You dip a guy in brown gravy, and you lock him in a small room with a wolverine who’s high on angel dust! Or you could just shoot a guy. You could get a high-speed catapult, and you just shoot him into a brick wall! Perhaps you line ‘em up and you do fifteen of ‘em; when one of them is fired off, then the next one – rapid fire capital punishment. Course, then you have to stop everything to clean off the wall, since cleanliness is right next to Godliness. That’s one of my – I won’t call it a solution – but it’s one of my suggestions. To get this culture to warm to what it professes. If we’re going to kill people, let’s be imaginative; raise a little money to pay down Social Security. The debt seems to be in fine shape, let’s pay down Social Security, and sell these spots to Budweiser, someone like that. Something you could gamble on.

There are some fine forms of execution that perhaps deserve a second look. Beheading hasn’t been used in a long time. You could have the head roll down a little hill, where it could land in one of five numbered holes. Also a favorite is burning people in oil. Maybe we could French-fry a few.

HENDRA: One of the things that I think that people perhaps don’t know is your background. It’s very clear from listening to you speak, and one of the things that I like about George particularly, is that you are urban and not suburban. I have a feeling that a lot of contemporary comedians speak with a rather muted kind of – they speak to people who love their SUVs and basically think that all the big questions are going to be taken care of. You don’t do that. You speak with an edge that comes from the street. You grew up in New York, and I’ve always been fascinated to know more about that.

CARLIN: I had an interesting pull in two directions. Both geographically and from my Mother. My Father was not present in the home. He had been asked to leave, when I was a kid. He couldn’t keep his ethanol down sufficiently well. So my Mother raised us. My Father had been a public speaker; he was a very successful advertising space salesman. He was the National Ad Manager of the New York Sun, and the New York Post before it, back when it was "a real newspaper," as my Mother would say. It was a broadsheet before it was tabloid sized.

We lived on 121st Street, adjacent to Columbia University. Everything in that neighborhood is highly institutional, and sort of "up the hill" both literally and figuratively as well. The Julliard School of Music was located there at the time, The Jewish Theological Seminary, Union Theological Seminary, Grant, Grant’s Tomb – he and Julia were lying over there . . .

So there was that, Teacher’s College and Columbia – and then there was Harlem. That was the place that I was attracted to. There was Spanish and Black and working class Irish, just to the north, down the hill. My Mother of course, wanted us to aspire "up" in this direction, and we were, of course, drawn in this direction . . .


CARLIN: Yes. It’s funny, because they’re reversed. "Downtown" was up the hill, and "Uptown" was down the hill. I quit school in ninth grade. And that was the conflict that I grew up with. I had this idea that, "I know I’m smart. I can’t prove it to them, the way that they like to see it." So ideas and speaking became important to me. The ability to communicate my thoughts, and I wanted to be in show business. I wanted to be one of them. I hadn’t any idea of talking about significant things, but . . .

HENDRA: But it seems to me that this is where your language comes from. You, more than anyone I know actually, and this book is a very good example of that. You have a fascination with language. Many comedians, when you write their stuff down, it just evaporates. It’s evanescent. But your writing, your fascination with language, makes it terrific reading.

You had always told me that your interest in language came from a kind of fascination with what happens between people, by listening to "The Dozens" and listening to the accents of the neighborhood. You told me that that’s where the "Seven Words" came from.

CARLIN: I had a fascination with exotic cursing, you might say. I kept a list of interesting filth. The kids in the neighborhood, we were Irish kids – there was a lot of verbal skill on the stoop. We were heavily influenced by Black street culture. We lived on the border of Black Harlem, and what we called our neighborhood, "White Harlem." I’ve found that the people in the center of either of those places can afford to have an insulated attitude. They feel their whiteness or their blackness strongly. But people on the border have to find a third way of going, a third sort of culture, and we had that. We were influenced by the Black gang called "The Dozens."

If you wanna play The Dozens
Well, The Dozens is a game,
And the way I fuck your mother,
Is a Goddamn shame . . .

They said "Mama," and that seemed awfully safe. We said, "Mother." "Your Mother." We would grab our crotch and say, "You’re Mother’s lunch is here, Billy." Y’know? This passed for wit. And that’s the point I want to make. The gross and the direct sledgehammer . . . These guys were quick. Very skilled verbally. You had to be on your toes, you had to be fast. That way of cursing, the filthy language, was so interesting to me, and I kept a list in my wallet of things that I heard.

For instance, Dickie Phelen referred to the Sergeant he had as a "Burly Loudmouthed Cocksucker." That had such a ring to it. People would go up to him and say, "How do you like the Marines, Dickie?" And he would say, "Well, it’s not bad, if at four in the morning, some Burly Loudmouthed Cocksucker comes in waking you up!" I had to write that down! It just had this wonderful rhythm . . .

HENDRA: Joyceian . . .

CARLIN: Yes. Chris Bittermann. This is the opposite, this is something that’s blunt. Bittermann referred to his landlady as "That Kraut Cunt." Mikey Flynn of the Fighting Flynn Brothers – they were notorious and they, they were dangerous. Mikey Flynn was beating up a Julliard student once . . . At that time, a "longhair" indeed, meant a classical musician, or someone in the general area of music. He was kicking this person in the head – I remember seeing this in front of the University Bar and Grill, and as he was kicking this person, he was saying, "You Longhaired Fucking Music Prick!" It was like poetry . . .

I put it on this list, and my Mother, my Mother always searched my clothes. She found things I stole, she found this and that, and I always resented that. Parent shouldn’t go searching their children’s rooms. I don’t think it’s a good idea. My Mother found this list, and she came to me and her question was wonderful. I didn’t recognize it from the angle I was at, because it had been folded so many times. She held it out and asked, "What is this?" It was a horrible moment, and I said, "Oh, that! I’m just collecting a lot of curse words that I heard, and I . . ." It was later that night, as I was coming in, when my Uncle John, who was not living with us, was there. As I opened the door to the apartment, I could hear them talking and I heard her saying, "I think he needs a psychiatrist." Somehow I was proud of that.

The street gave me a lot of trust in the blunt truth. In reality. Realism, I guess is a better word for it.

HENDRA: But in the natural evolution of things, the seven words that you couldn’t say to your Mother became "The Seven Words You Can’t Say on Television."

CARLIN: Right. Became "Shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker and tits." The seven – you know, that was a carefully thought out thing. It wasn’t just blurted out or hastily thrown together. I was trying to point out that there were certain words that could never be said. There were some that could be said, because they were considered dirty only some of the time. There was a varying standard. And that "bitch" and "bastard" were proper in a certain context. You couldn’t say, "You dirty bastard!" on television. You could say, "The bitch produced this litter," and another person could say, "William the Conqueror was the bastard son of . . ." So I was just pointing out that these words were very fluid. Some of them aren’t. Shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker and tits, those have specific meanings.

It all goes back to "Burley Loudmouthed Cocksucker." I was always proud of the rhythm of the Seven Words. In the follow-up to it, called "Filthy Language," I pointed out that it gets faster as it goes along: "Shiiiiiit, piiiiiss, fuuuck, cuunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, tits."

HENDRA: All together now . . .

ALL: Shiiiiiit, piiiiiss, fuuuck, cuunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, tits."

CARLIN: These words are what they are, there’s no saving grace. Fuck is fuck, and that’s that! In my own impervious way, in my own self-educated manner, I was trying to make a point that these words are obviously only symbols, and that the thing that we’re really afraid of is what they represent. It’s the religious superstition given to us about our bodies. The fear, the shame, the guilt attached to the body, and it’s functions. Sex and the parts that are engaged in it. And additionally, bathroom activity.

It’s just too bad that we’ve allowed this to happen to ourselves. That we put an invisible man in the sky to be in charge of our guilt, to inflict this guilt and shame onto our own selves, on our own very person.

HENDRA: You know, that routine is now roughly 25 years old, and in fact, on any episode of The Sopranos, you will find half of them being used at least, if not all of them.

CARLIN: Had there been cable at that time, I would have qualified the title, but it would have sounded very weak to say "Seven Words You Can’t Say on Commercial TV." I’m happy that cable came later. People will say this to me: "You said that there were Seven Words that you couldn’t . . . Well, they’re saying them now!" And I say, "No, no, no! Shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker and tits – when was the last time you heard one of them?"

Piss. Now piss is now okay. You can say that you are pissed off – angry. But not pissed on. "Why are you pissed off at me?" – Perfectly allowable. But not, "Because you pissed on me . . ." The preposition makes it – evil.

HENDRA: One of the things about that particular routine, and in fact, I’m sure that you are proud of, was that it has actually become the basis of a Supreme Court decision.

CARLIN: I think that it’s the only Supreme Court case based on a comedian’s monologue. It was so perverse, that trial. The little footnote in history that I am. It’s taught in many law classes, and many communications classes. The nice thing is: I quit school in the ninth grade, but they teach me in college.

HENDRA: But how did the case come about?

CARLIN: The case arose around the sequel, "Filthy Language" which was on the next album, not the one that had "Seven Words." WBAI, a listener-supported radio station in New York, aired it. They played it with a disclaimer, on an afternoon program called Lunchpail. They said, "This program is about language and the hypocrisy inherent in some of these regulations that we have, and if you are not – comfortable with that, we suggest you tune out now.

And so this professional "moralist" I’ve forgotten his name, but he worked for something along the lines of Morals in Media. He was in his car with his teenage son (and by the way, this was during school hours, and one wonders why the child wasn’t in school). Not only did he hear this disclaimer, he went ahead and listened to the entire monologue. Apparently, his son was unaffected. I assume that the boy was not morally corrupted by hearing this. This man made a complaint.

One complaint. One complaint was received by the FCC in New York. The New York market must have had 25 million radios – certainly, WBAI didn’t have that many listeners. There was one complaint; they were sanctioned by the FCC. They appealed it to the District Court of New York, where the station won a 2 to 1 District Court decision, then it went to the Supreme Court where it won 5 to 4. It was a squeaker, a close one. The FCC was told that, yes, they could sanction stations for the use of what was termed "indecent" language – they had created a whole new category of filth – obscenity didn’t come into play – for using these words during certain hours.

HENDRA: One of the things that intrigues me about this era and this part of your career, was that this was all part of a personal revolution, which many other comedians, and perhaps, many other people – I certainly did – went through. Lily Tomlin went through a similar kind of transformation, and Richard Pryor. You and I – we came up through this period together.


HENDRA: On such farm teams as The Merv Griffin Show. Perry Como.

CARLIN: Mike Douglas.

HENDRA: Ed Sullivan. My own tango was to go from The Ed Sullivan Show to the National Lampoon, which is quite a jump. You also had that changeover. It seems an important part of your life.

CARLIN: It was critical. I wanted to be like Danny Kaye when I was a little boy. To be a comedian in the movies. I saw these comedians in the movies, like Bob Hope and Red Skelton and Danny Kaye, and I said, "I can do that, I wanna do that. I can do that Danny Kaye thing – that verbal thing that he does, and the funny voices, and making funny faces. I can do that." And that was sort of what I had in my mind as a goal. To be Danny Kaye. To be An Actor. I called it acting. I was already a funny kid. I was doing routines and monologues among friends, and I was bent and headed in that direction, but I was very much out of step.

The society I was in didn’t apply to me. I was kicked out of three different schools, the altar boys, the choirboys, Boy Scouts, summer camp, and eventually, the Air Force. In most cases, I was kicked out. In some, I quit. I didn’t do well with authority and regulations. I had this sort of outlaw, swimming against the tide identity – this true self. But I also had this Danny Kaye dream, which was to be a mainstream entertainer (By the way, I discovered all of this retroactively, when I looked back and I thought, "well, this is what happened to me."). One side thought, "I’m going to be like Danny Kaye," while the other side thought, "Aww, fuck all these cocksuckers . . . There’s an inherent tension there.

I did the best I could. I worked for ten years with a suit and a tie, with a nice, mainstream, easy "Isn’t he a nice boy?" appearance. I did nice, superficial comedy – skimming the surface. Forming behind me, was this counter-culture. When I reached the age of 30, in 1967 – was that the "Summer of Love?"


CARLIN: When I was 30, the people I was entertaining were 50, let’s say. Their children were 20. They were very much at odds with each other. I was right in the middle. But I was entertaining the older group. I didn’t like it at all. I was having a lot of problems in nightclubs about that time. There were personal changes that I didn’t understand at the time.

It was this other self, this swimming against the tide. It suddenly found that there was legitimacy to that. That there was this whole counter-culture. There were the people whose lives and whose work – that was the important thing. Then there were these songwriters. I thought, "Gee, they’re using their abilities, their talents, their skill, to express their feelings, and I’m up there going like, "Hey! Howya doing? You go like this, you go like that . . .!"

So, I had this other side. After a while, in ’69 and ’70, I was wrenched, partly by events, to be more free with my comedy with my writing and – a little bit of acid doesn’t hurt – it can help a lot – it facilitated some of this. I think I jumped ahead two or three years because of it.

HENDRA: I was always struck by the phrase you told me. That you were a traitor to your generation.

CARLIN: I was at war with these people in my audiences. I was right in the middle. I am proud to say that I am a member of the only generation that didn’t elect a president of this country. The only generation, a silent generation. Chaney is one of ours, and he’s obviously – if something happens to him, Bush is next in line . . .

HENDRA: It does seem a cliché that the 60s are being trashed in a funny kind of way. But none of these issues have gone away. They are still with us, and what we’ve gotten from that era – the 70s more than the 60s – was that it was a time of dissent, of resistance to the figures of power. It was a time of personal transformation. We’re all used to people accusing us of being a self-absorbed generation, but these things are very vital to democracy.

Myron Magnet, whom many of you many not know, and is W’s intellectual guru (there’s a lot hanging on that phrase), has written a book, which has been very influential on the President (or Vice-President). It’s called The Dream and the Nightmare. Myron, who is basically a right wing, conservative professor, concentrates mostly on the nightmare – the 60s and 70s – as the dark ages from whence all our social ills came. Abortion, rap, crack, these pesky wheelchair ramps, all these kinds of things. But in fact, all these issues are with us still. I think George Bush’s – I don’t know if he stole the election exactly – but his ascension to power, is in fact, the triumph of the other side, isn’t it? George Bush is still a traitor to his generation.


HENDRA: In that sense, these issues have not gone away. I want you to do something, because it demonstrates this wonderfully. There was a great routine you did in the early 90s. It was about the Gulf War.

CARLIN: Right.

HENDRA: And this happens to be focused, or ultimately focused, on our beloved President, Dick Cheney, and his kind. Could you give us a taste of this?

CARLIN: I am prepared for you. It’s called "Rockets and Penises in the Persian Gulf." What I’m proudest of, is that although it was written for a live HBO show in 1992, when at the time, I was working onstage about 120 nights a year, I am always at work on material that will ultimately become an HBO show, and recycle it. I cut away the old show and I build the new one. And this piece of material was built during the Gulf War – there was an awful lot of resistance. I mean the kind of resistance you feel when assholes are clanging shut all over the audience.

It was like, "Our brave young men and women in uniform around the world in places they can’t pronounce (which is a wonderful testimony to the educational system)." There was a sentimentality about the war, the people we hire for it, the people full of testosterone, the young men who go and fight the old men’s wars. I told them: "I’d like to talk about that big war we had in the Persian Gulf. That big war. It was the first war we ever had which was on all the channels. Although there were no battlefields, there were all these criminals in the Pentagon, pointing to maps and charts." How did I put it?

Let’s not forget George Bush’s obligation to protect the oil interests of his family and friends. There was another, more important, consideration at work. Here’s what really happened.

The simple fact was that America was long overdue to drop high explosives on helpless civilians; people who have no argument with us at all. After all, it had been awhile, and the hunger gnaws. That’s our specialty: picking on countries that have marginally effective air forces. Yugoslavia (this has been updated a little) is another, more recent, example.

One reason that we’re good at war is that we practice a lot. We’re a 200-year-old democracy, and we’ve had ten major wars. That’s a war every twenty years. We’re good at it, because we practice. We can’t make a TV anymore, can’t make a cellphone, can’t make a VCR, we got no steel industry, no textile industry, we can’t educate our young people, can’t fix our old people and their problems with health, but we can bomb the shit out of your country.

Especially if your country is full of brown people. We like that. That’s our hobby. That’s our new job in the world, bombing brown people. Iraq, Panama, Grenada, Libya. You got some brown people in your country? Tell them to watch the fuck out!

Who were the last white people that you can remember that we bombed? The Germans. That’s it. They’re the only ones, because they were trying to cut in on our action! They wanted to dominate the world. Fuck you, that’s our job!

That’s ancient history. Even those Serbs in Yugoslavia aren’t really white, are they? They’re down there near the swarthy end of the white scale – just brown enough to bomb! I’m just waiting for the day we bomb the English people. They fuckin’ deserve it!

And you notice that I don’t feel about that war the way I’ve been instructed to feel. There’s this real moron thing I do; it’s called "thinking." I’m not a good American because I form my own opinions, I won’t roll over when I’m told. I look at war a bit differently. I see it as an exercise in dick-waving, primarily. A bunch of men standing out in a field waving their dicks at one another. That’s what all that moron athlete strutting around stuff is. It’s called "dick fear." Men are insecure about the size of their penis, and choose to kill one another. It’s called "fucking with people," actually.

As far as I am concerned, the whole thing in the Persian Gulf was one big dick-waving cockfight, and it was because Saddam Hussein had questioned the size of George Bush’s dick. And George Bush had been called a wimp for so long that apparently, he felt the need to act out his manhood fantasies by sending America’s white children in to kill other people’s brown children. Clearly, the worst kind of wimp.

Bush, the name, is related to the genitals, without actually being the genitals. Bush is just sort of a passive secondary sex characteristic. It’s even used as a slang term for women: "Hey, pal, how’s the bush in this area?" I can’t help thinking, if this president’s name had been George Boner . . . he might have felt a little better about himself, and he wouldn’t have had to go and kill all those children."

When he got right down to it, he even used teenage slang to describe his foreign policy, saying that, "This will not be another Vietnam – We’re going all the way!" That is an actual quote of Bush’s. Of course, when it came right down to it – he didn’t. Faced with going into Bagdad, he punked out. No balls. Just Bush, okay? He applied sanctions, so that an extra half a million brown children would die, so that his oil buddies could continue to fill their pockets.

You wanna know what happened in the Persian Gulf, just remember the first names of the two men who ran that war: Dick Chaney and Colin Powell. Dick and colon. Someone got fucked in the ass.

I wrote that while the war was still going on.

HENDRA: But it does raise an interesting issue – which is – what good did it do to them?

CARLIN: Nothing!

HENDRA: Do you think that your routines will change people’s minds?

CARLIN: I? No. I don’t change their minds. It’s nice to hear anecdotally, when someone will say, "You know, I look at ‘X’ a little differently after hearing that routine." I hear things like that, but I would sabotage myself if I ever thought that, or if I ever acted for that reason.

It’s like any artist: you just have a song to sing. It’s just something that you want to get out of you. Whatever your tools are, whether it’s paints or a beautiful piano, whatever you do to express the feelings you have.

I feel so out of step with all this. I just like to point out how badly we’re doing. That’s the fun I have. I don’t say we all the time, I say you. People are doing so badly, and I wondered why. I’ve finally divorced myself from the race – I love the species – but it’s circling the drain, the circles are getting smaller, and it’s going faster. I just view it as entertainment now. They say that if you scratch a cynic, you find a disappointed idealist. I know I have those chords in me. Now and then.

HENDRA: Is it just America, or is it the whole universe?

CARLIN: We are leading the way now. Once we turned it over to the high priests, and the traders, and that happened a long time ago. Once we gave our power over to the invisible man in the sky and the traders, and the people in commerce. You know, there’s this wonderful brain that we have, this objectifying brain that can say, "I – other." And it can do all this abstract thinking. To be satisfied with microwave hot dogs, salad shooters, DustBusters – we were bought off very cheaply.

It’s the great American cattle drive. They fatten the people up, then they bring them to market. Not for the usual reason, to sell them. Now they get them to market for buying. And they’re all branded. They voluntarily wear the brands themselves. They put the brand names of the logos they wear, and they proudly go to market. They’re being bought and they’re buying. They where bought and paid for a long time ago. They’re doing the buying, they’re being sold, and they’re getting so little. And we’re just doing that to the rest of the world. We bombed the Serbian’s, and we looked at the sales figures and we said probably, "we’re not selling enough refrigerators over there – time to bomb someone down, so we can build them up, so we can sell them the things they need." It’s not done in meetings, but I know that this is the motive behind this.

HENDRA: You see this cattle drive as being a national movement, a voluntary movement?

CARLIN: Oh, they love it. No, they’re not really driven, they’re just directed. The national anthem should be "Head ‘em up, move ‘em out." It’s done with traffic lights. I spend part of my work year in Las Vegas, where you see these clusters of people waiting to be told that it’s all right to cross the street. They must be given a signal that it’s all right to cross the street. It happens here in Los Angeles too, I saw it. There aren’t as many pedestrians here, so you don’t see it as much, but the signal is given, and then they begin to move. With visors and fanny packs and king-sized thighs and thongs – the kind that go on the feet – and this terrible, terrible people, who once had beauty, who now have it all covered with fat and logos. It’s so corrupted. They go singing, they go happily, and they travel long distances, in order to give their money to a big corporation – it’s just wonderful stuff to write about!

HENDRA: When you stop to actually think about it, they are actually branded, aren’t they?

CARLIN: They’re proud of them! They wear logos all over, from the hat to the sneakers, they do it, and they do it willingly. They love it.

HENDRA: You said, "There’s this moronic thing I do called ‘thinking’." This has always been something that has attracted me to you and indeed, I think it’s what cuts you out from what I see as a long-term trend in humor. It seems to have gone away from things that matter, or things that we’re not supposed to be laughing about, to bring us back to the original Lenny Bruce perception. Do you feel that you are talking about the news, or do you think that you’re doing something at a more profound level?

CARLIN: I never do topical humor, because I think it’s easy. And it makes you sound like everybody else, so I don’t do things that have perishability. I like to talk about the long-term things that will never be solved. I like talking about those big, larger human issues that . . .

There are three areas I like to draw from. One of them is language. I love to talk about how we speak to one another, the things we choose to say, and to try to deconstruct some of that, and have fun with it.

Then I like to talk too, about the insignificant. What’s in the refrigerator, how we drive, pets. I like that because it’s universal. You can really touch people – it’s a door that opens instantly. All you have to do to an audience is say, "That’s a nice dog" and they’re all yours. So that’s the sense of community that I lack. A perverse sense of community.

But then there are these other things that bothers people for my raising them. Like hate and rape, and war and genocide, and sex and perversion and all the things that they would rather avoid. I always try to have some ideas in it. I don’t use the words and the topics for their own sake, for whatever startling qualities they have – "shock value." I don’t like that; I try to avoid that term. But that’s what I mean. I like throwing big stones at them. In the midst of telling them why they deserve it. I like describing with logic and with ideas, the underpinnings of my irritation with them.

So now, when I say "cocksucker" or "cunt" or "shitface" or something, it is for the purpose of something else. It is a blunt instrument, but it does focus the mind – when it is used properly. It’s a well-balanced stew.

HENRDA: One thing that I have noticed about your routines is that your thoughts, I wouldn’t call them a pedagogical tactic, but you seem to have graduated from being a mere entertainer to being a teacher. But as you do so, you also seem to be drifting further away from the planet.

CARLIN: Once again, I discovered in retrospect, around 1990, 1992, that I had separated myself from this romance that is called the human race, this democracy, this consumer culture. Besides being an entertainer, and a stand-up comedian, which is something that I’m proud of, that there’s an artist at work in here too. An artist, generally, is on a journey and you don’t know where it’s going to take you. I had divorced myself emotionally from any sort of potential solutions.

I think a lot of comedians who appear topical or issue-oriented, underneath it, they are rooting for an outcome. "Gee, if we all vote and sign petitions and hold hands and hum things, and save our cans and sort our garbage, everything would get to be a whole lot better. It’s there! It’s underneath the criticism I make."

My criticism isn’t based on that – that there’s a way out. There is no way out! I really felt that. I thought, "This is really good, I can divorce myself from the cheerleader role. I can point and say how badly we’re doing. I think of myself as out there somewhere beyond the Ort Cloud, where the comets form, beyond the solar system. I hope, by the way, that there’s one forming right now, and that it’s turning slightly toward Mississippi . . .

I enjoy criticizing on the basis of "It’s you folks." Because I never felt a part of this, I never identified with a local group. I never belonged to any club, organization, or state. I love New York City, but that’s a chauvinist thing. I suppose it’s a belonging thing. I’m not proud of this country, I don’t care what happens to it, I honestly don’t give a shit if it all goes up in flames. Having that freedom just made the writing so much more fun. On specific beliefs, not just this general, "You know, you put the aluminum over here, and the glass over there, and everything will come out wonderful!"

HENDRA: As you drift further away, from your viewpoint, what state is the planet in?

CARLIN: The planet is fine. The people are fucked. This planet has been here for four and a half million years, we’ve been here for maybe, 150,000. The industrial revolution for what, 2-300 years. And we have the colossal arrogance to assume that we are going to have an effect on this planet that’s negative? Global warming included. The planet will take care of itself, it’s a self-correcting – in fact, I’ve a piece in my book about that too. I want to read it, because I want to tell it to you accurately.

This planet has put up with much worse than us. It’s been through earthquakes, volcanoes, plate tectonics, solar flares, sunspots, magnetic storms, pole reversals, planetary floods, worldwide fires, tidal waves, wind and water erosion, ice ages and hundreds of thousands of years of bombardment by comets, asteroids, and meteors. You think a few plastic bags and aluminum cans are going to make a difference?

The planet isn’t going anywhere, folks, we are! We’re going away. Pack your shit – we won’t leave much of a trace. Thank God for that. Nothing left. Maybe just a little Styrofoam. The planet will be here, and we’ll be gone. Another failed mutation; another closed-end biological mistake.

The planet will shake us off like a bad case of fleas. And it will heal itself, because that what it does; it’s a self-correcting system. The air and water and earth will recover and be renewed. And if plastic isn’t really degradable, most likely the planet will incorporate it into a new paradigm: The Earth Plus Plastic.

The Earth doesn’t have a particular prejudice against plastic. Plastic came out of the earth. Perhaps she sees it as one of her many children. It could be the reason the Earth allowed us to be spawned here in the first place. She wanted plastic, but didn’t know how to get it!

Philosophers say, "Why are we here?" The planet says, "Plastic, asshole!"

HENDRA: We’ve just about come to our hour, but I have one more thing I’d like to get in. One of the fathers of 20th Century relativism, was Bertrand Russell, who was no relativist in his personal life at all. He was a pacifist, and he was conscious of the abuses of power. He had a great saying. He said, "Dissent is life, conformity, death." And as far as I’m concerned, you are one of the few voices of true dissent left in our society. It’s been an honor to be here with you.

CARLIN: Thank you.

QUESTION: George, I just bought a dog, and I’m concerned about the way the dog thinks around the house, and I know that you’ve done some material about that. Could you tell me a little of your insights about dogs?

CARLIN: Well, they love it when you get home. They hate to see you leave. You know, they could do without you if you could just teach them how to use the can opener. They know where the dog food is – they can’t open the cans. I can’t generalize, but there have been at least four or five generations of material on dogs and cats, they’re wonderful extensions of . . .

HENDRA: Didn’t you have a dog who committed suicide?

CARLIN: Yes, I did. He ran out in front of a truck. And the sad thing is, you don’t see it coming. He doesn’t suddenly show up in an AC/DC t-shirt, has a friend who can’t make eye contact . . . And never a note! They just run out there in traffic, and no note. And that’s what they want to do. They want to pay you back!

QUESTION: George, when you were asked to be the first host on Saturday Night Live, did you consider that an honor at that point in time?

CARLIN: There was no such show as Saturday Night Live when I hosted the first one. There was to be a rotating host, Richard Pryor, Lily Tomlin and I. That was the projected idea, and as they got close to the first broadcast that idea was scrapped. They couldn’t get the people they wanted regularly enough, so they decided to go with a guest host each week. I was lined up to be one of the rotating hosts, so they slotted me in. But no one knew anything obviously, about the lasting power of that show.

The function I served on that set was as a mediator. On one side, there was this younger group. Younger than I, of course, with the same voice perhaps, vocabulary and so forth – the Belushi troupe. They were dissenting, brash – it was 1975. They were the voices of this angry generation that was rebelling. Then there were the stagehands. "Yeeah, dees guys ovah heeah, dees guys were runnin’ da show. Dees guys, Jeesuz Christ, they’ve got ‘em on TV now." I was the mediator. I was reassuring the old guys that these people were all right, and to the younger folks, that these guys were not the complete enemy. They know how to turn the dials and make the show happen. I don’t remember the specifics, but I remember playing that role for a week. Trying to keep these two parties from what would have happened without my being there.

HENDRA: You did actually run into some censor problems, didn’t you?

CARLIN: Oh, we had the Cardinal! The Cardinal was on the phone before we were off the air! I was so proud of that. Would it have been O’Connor at that time?

HENDRA: Spellman?

CARLIN: Spellman still? They were frantic! I did a routine about God. I did a thing where I said that God, obviously, was not perfect. Look, the mountain ranges are all crooked, he can’t make two snowflakes alike – what’s all this reverence?

HENDRA: And he never made a dime.

CARLIN: And he never made a dime, that’s right. So as we were finishing the broadcast, somebody, I guess it was Warren, said, "The Chancery, the Chancery!" I just like the hammering and the pressing. Y’know, making ‘em react. It’s part of the kid thing.

QUESTION: Things have changed so much in comedy on television. Reports now show that 80 percent of the material on sitcoms is about sex and dating I wondered what you thought about that.

CARLIN: The thing that people always seem to miss when they talk about television and radio and "censorship," is that these aren’t anything more than advertising media. These mediums are for messages about commerce. They hang the messages onto some form of "entertainment." I say "entertainment" with a certain kind of reluctance. Very little art of course, but "entertainment." "Here’s the soap, and here’s the Brillo, and here’s the tires" and so forth. What does one expect?

In fact, that’s what I say about this country all the time when they say, "Well, can you imagine what will happen if –" And I say, "What the fuck were you expecting? Haven’t you been noticing? This has been going on for a long time!" They say, "Did you hear what happened?" I say, "No." Then they say, "Sum-sum." I say, "SO?!!"

That’s what they do – they sell goods. They don’t want to potentially drive off customers. So with sex now, they’ve found to be in the culture, so sex is now okay, because it’s marketable – it will help you sell a few things. I mean, it always has, but now the subject matter can be in the story line too. So I don’t wonder about it, I just see it and think, "Good – the circles are getting smaller."

QUESTION: You mentioned earlier that one of your areas of concentration is the study of language. With all the talk about the dumbing down of America, do you have any observations about the change, in the last 25 to 40 years, of language and the way that we communicate with each other?

CARLIN: The poor Boomers, who come into such deserved abuse. I’ll be oblique here for a minute, because I have a few recent examples that just make me shake my head. The Boomers are so reluctant to age. So reluctant to go down the path toward extinction, that they’ve created this category for themselves called, "The Near Elderly."

One of the problems of our current language is this completely correct mantle that hangs over so much of it. Not just the codes on the campuses, but the effect of it overall. The attempt to soften everything and to put a nice finish on tough reality. These are minor examples, but I have so many of them that ultimately, their sheer volume is what gives this point validity. But just as examples:

"No smoking." It was very direct, very simple. "No smoking." Not hard to misunderstand that. "No smoking." To the point. "Thank you for not smoking." Thank you for not giving me a sidestream cancer. It’s a softening of everything. No more "Do not disturb." That’s an imperative sentence: "Do not disturb." Now, it’s "Privacy, Please." It’s "Thank You" for everything. I swear to you, I was in a hotel, and I picked up the phone and they said, "Thank you for calling the Operator."

It’s not just the politically correct. It’s this attempt by white, liberal, elitists from the academic circles in the eastern universities. It’s like, "Big White Daddy Knows Best – We’ll tell you what you want to be called, you African Americans."

I say, African American. How about a white South African who comes here, comes to America. Is he not an African American? Can we use that term for him? Is an Egyptian an African American? Is a Jamaican who comes here, isn’t he a Jamaican American? Or is he a Jamaican African American? It’s just absurd. Native American was a term given to us by the Interior Department as a way of keeping track of people. It includes Aleuts, and Hawaiians, and Polynesians, etc.

I’m way off on this one, but there’s one more example that I want to get in here. There’s a woman on a plane with her son. They’re in a seat ahead of me, and we were all settling in – boarding time. This woman’s son apparently did something that the woman didn’t care for, and she said, "STAY ON TASK, JASON!" I told this to someone recently as an example, and a woman said that she had brought her daughter to a Girl Scout meeting. It was going to be a long session. For some reason, it was going to be about four hours. So she said to another mother as they were going in, she said, "Gee, this is going to be about four hours. I hope they’ll have some snacks." And the other woman said to her, to the mother, "You’ll have to learn to better manage your expectations."

HENDRA: And it’s not just liberals either. I was just looking at the L.A. Times just yesterday. There was a quote, clearly from an NRA member, in which he referred to gun control as "victim disarmament."

QUESTION: George, besides what you read for the sake of your work, what do you read for enjoyment?

CARLIN: I wish I understood how people find the time to read. I really do. I’m very obsessed with my work, the details of pursuing my work, being on the road. I’m in a wonderful relationship – my wife died in 1997 and since that time, I’ve met Sally Wade. We’re in a relationship that joyfully requires every second I can bring to it. We spend a lot of time talking and being together and becoming the pair that we are. Then there’s the work and the travel, and the reading . . .

You know, I love Gore Vidal. He’s the one who introduced me to the "Sky God" concept. I read a little Gore to get away. But reading – it’s a way of researching my work – it’s not really for enjoyment. I am trying to learn to quiet the monkey mind. My daughter Kelly, who has a greater comfort with Eastern thought and the practices thereof, she – I want that too. I would like to quiet this thing down. If I could just shut up for half an hour – I would love that.

I like reading about large-scale astrophysics, and the smaller, quantum physics. Scale, interests me. That, and the passage of time.

QUESTION: What do you watch on TV?

CARLIN: I don’t watch anything on TV as an appointment. I don’t say, "Oh, gotta see that." Maybe The Sopranos. I understand that show, and I love the mob mythology. But I have television on as wallpaper, as background music. Mostly on MSNBC and CNN. Just hearing, just listening to the cavalcade. The things that interest me, some of them are about language, some of them are about values. They call out from this steady stream of data. They call out, and I write them down.

But comedians, I like people like Louis Black, I like Mitch Headberg. I like people who have a little dark quality, who have an odd, left-field angle. Louie Anderson has that quality, and I don’t think a lot of people really recognize that. That interests me. I don’t see enough comedians to give it a fair analysis.

QUESTION: How old were you when you began making jokes with your friends?

CARLIN: I was always being funny before school began – not preschool. They should have preteachers for preschool. But my Mother would get me to imitate people for company, when they would come over. My Mother was very smart. There came a time in our home when I made a joke. It wasn’t mimicry for a change, or some silly physical thing. I said something that was apparently witty. I said something that was a joke, I surprised her intellectually with a piece of logic or thought.

I knew her fake laugh. I knew my Mother’s phony social laugh. And I knew her genuine laugh. She laughed a lot. And I heard the genuine laugh – I think I must have been 8 or 9 years old. It was just a moment that I’ll never forget. I wish I knew the line. I wish I knew that, but I thought, "Oh! Oh, yeah! Yeah, yeah – you can do that too!"

I was the class clown, the neighborhood wiseguy. The kids on the corner, all said, "Georgie! Ya fuckin’ crazy! Georgie’s fuckin’ crazy – Georgie tell’m dat thing . . ." I didn’t like to fight. I was a fast runner – a nervy guy. I would steal anything, and I could climb! If there were bad guys, y’know, bad, meaning tough, I would go and do my goofy shit with my eyeballs and everything, and they would say, "Don’t hit him – it’s bad luck."

QUESTION: What about your Danny Kaye dream? Have you ever done any routines on Hollywood?

CARLIN: No, but I will say one thing about the Danny Kaye thing, and I don’t know why I want to tell you this, but I must.

I collected autographs as a kid – not in any sort of hardcore way, but just by hanging around the stage doors. My Mother didn’t come home until seven at night, and until then, I got autographs. And I loved Danny Kaye. And I waited for him once at Radio City Music Hall. There was a movie and a stage show; movie, stage show. The Paramount had that, the Capitol, the Strand, the Roxy had that, and Radio City. He was in the stage show at Radio City, and I went and I stood at that door for over an hour. It was a rainy, cold day – I wasn’t in the direct rain, but it was very cold and it was getting’ dark.

I knew his schedule, because you could lean into the doorman and say, "Is he out? What time’s he come back? There’s a show at 6?" or whatever. And I stood there and waited for Danny Kaye, and he came and I was the only kid there. And he walked right past me. He wouldn’t even say anything. And I did my little rap, "Oh please, please, please . . ." And then later I see him with these UNICEF kids, with 30 of them sitting on his lap, and I knew he was full of shit. Sorry, but I had to tell you about that.

QUESTION: When I first got married, I said to my husband, "We have to get rid of this shit, so I can bring my stuff in." He had no idea of what I was talking about. Could you please explain it to him?

HENDRA: How long ago was this?

QUESTIONER: Twenty years ago!

CARLIN: There’s more of it now, I’ll bet! The key line in the routine that you are referring to there, is: "Have you ever noticed, that your shit is stuff, but that their stuff is shit?" There’s another category. Crap. Crap is what your Ex left at the house. "Where are comin’ over here to pick up your crap?"

That routine – it was one of those things that struck a chord. I hear about it more than any other routine, except for maybe the "Seven Dirty Words." It was one of those things that gave me a sense of belonging. There’s gotta be balance. And even though I felt like and outsider and acted like an outsider and thought like an outsider, what I was missing was a sense of belonging. An outsider wants nothing more than to belong on some level – on his terms, preferably. And so, when people talk about that, I know that I struck that universal note. That gives me great joy. It’s a part of my work that doesn’t come in for as much attention as some of the more spectacular and exotic subjects that I like to choose. I’m proud of that piece, and "Baseball and Football." I feel the same about that one.

QUESTION: Hemingway said, "A long life deprives a man of his optimism, a short life is better." How do you maintain a sense of optimism when you deal with the dark side of things as you do?

CARLIN: Some mechanism in me has produced a comfortable dichotomy. I have a personal experience of positivism, friendliness toward people, openness, and optimism about people. I don’t have that optimism about the species as a whole. Maybe that’s the balance. Maybe the one is only allowed by the presence of the other. Maybe if I was so eaten up with that thing I do that’s so external, – my dislike and distaste – I don’t think that I would be able to do this with any skill of with any flair. But I personally shine inside, and I kind of shine some of that light on people – I know that sounds rather self-serving, but that’s exactly what it feels like.

HENDRA: You’re shining inside?

CARLIN: I’m a shiny guy.

QUESTION: I know pretty much every one of your routines, and all my friends do too, and I must confess that I can’t get enough of you. I’m 16 and growing up in America, and obviously, according to you, I’m pretty fucked up. Could you comment on that?

CARLIN: There’s nothing like self-examination! Asking someone how fucked up you are is the first step toward getting well!

QUESTION: What do you think of the current crop of comedians, like Chris Rock and Adam Sandler? They started in stand-up, just like you did, and now they’ve gone into movies and are making 20 million a picture . . .

CARLIN: Well then, the Danny Kaye gene lives in the general population. I am less in touch with the generation that they represent. Chris Rock is not the same to me as Adam Sandler. But there aren’t enough people – and Chris Rock is one of them, he’s professed this – who honor the art of stand-up and wish to refine it in themselves, and their craft. Most of us see it as a stepping stone. As a way to get somewhere else. Very few people say, "Boy, I’m gonna be a stand-up comic when I’m 50." That’s just not that way we think.

I was forced by tax trouble, and certain circumstances, to stay on the road. But I hit that line where I did become a better comic, and I actually became an artist, and I came to think that, "Oh yeah, this is it." Acting on the side was fine and wonderful, but that this, I didn’t know about this. If I had had the career I had wanted in the 60s, if I had gotten that Under the Yum-Yum Tree audition that I wanted – those auditions that I was so horrible at – if the girl I was auditioning with hadn’t sucked, I might have gotten some dumb-assed acting career that would have been mediocre, moderate, lasted awhile, and then where would I have been? I never would have discovered these other parts of myself. So I got lucky! I applaud anyone whose dream takes them anywhere they wish, and I especially like when you don’t know where you are going, when it surprises you. That’s my joy.

QUESTION: What material did you have the most fun writing?

CARLIN: The writing is the real joy. I’ve sometimes said that there are two parts that get exercised in me. The Show Off, that’s my instincts to go onstage. And the Good Homework Boy, gets to stay home and refine the work.

There’s more joy now for me in the writing, to see the sentences and movin’ that text around! Boy, I love movin’ text! "What? This belongs down here! What’s the same document, and I got nine other things . . . and rimp! wrank!" Boy that feels great! But getting out there onstage involves a different set of muscles, and that feels wonderful too.

One of the pieces I enjoyed writing was something called "Love and Regards" It’s in this book. It’s about how we say to one another, "Give my regards, give my love to, give my best to." And I tried to take it to its furthest possible extreme. I was very happy with the piece. It has a mathematical progression to it that surprised me. It has a wonderful logic.

HENDRA: I want to ask a question now. Where does Napalm and Silly Putty come from?

CARLIN: The title? There are two explanations. One is in the introduction of the book. It’s a way of crystallizing the idea that Man – large capital "M" the way we’ve always used it (I honor women in different ways, by altering my language). Man has been able to come up with such disparate things as a jellied gasoline that mains and kills and scars, and a putty-like thing that can be broken in pieces and stretched out. And when you press it onto a comic strip, you can see a backward picture of Popeye. That we’re capable of these two extremes. And it seems like it’s the stuff in the middle that we’re not very good at. That’s one of the reasons for the title.

The other reason is that it describes the two parts of my nature. I think I have a so-called angry, strident, restless and discontented side. Then, there’ll be this childlike wonderer who asks these questions like, "Why don’t we have desert at breakfast? Why only with food?" That’s it! There’s the inevitable dualism!

——transcribed and edited by Kurt Wahlner

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