He passed away from heart failure yesterday, at the age of 71.
He was my favorite comedian to come out of the late 60s and early 70s. He resembled that uncle who smoked too much pot back in the day but still had more than enough brain cells to spare for long, amusing, rambling asides that after the fact you realized had a point — and a really good one. I started liking him early — I impressed the entire family at 12 years old by memorizing most of Carlin’s A Place For My Stuff! album, which probably tells you something about my family — and kept liking him since. I even saw him live once, in Fresno, where he said one of the more sensible things I’d ever heard, which is that we really ought to combine cemeteries and golf courses, because both are such a damn waste of space. I remember wishing I’d thought of that first, but then, there’s a lot of stuff Carlin said I wished I thought of first. It’s part of what made him one of my favorite comedians.
I also liked the fact that he was the catalyst for one of the more important Supreme Court free speech rulings of recent times; it’s not every comedian whose work makes work for the highest court in the land. Having your own landmark court case is much better than a Grammy, if you give it any sort of thought.
To be utterly honest about it, Carlin lived at least 20 years beyond what I would have expected him to live, given his life history. Which means, really, that every thing he wrote or did after the mid-80s just feel like a gift, something extra you get for free, because sometimes life is good to you that way. But I still think he’s gone too soon.