Divine Comedy: 25 Best Stand-Up Specials and Movies

From classic HBO specials to arena-comic concert flicks, these bits continue to crack us up

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4. 'George Carlin at USC' (1978)

"Language is one of my loves," George Carlin once said, "and I love bothering people when I am able to." He provoked in two ways on his first HBO special, first by playfully bending our perception of nonsense phrases like "hot-water heater" and "feminine-hygiene spray" with such preciseness that aspiring observers of minutiae like Jerry Seinfeld took notice. But USC's legacy is its "seven dirty words" centerpiece, a finely sculpted dissection of corporate censorship that's far less about spewing obscenities than it is about examining the ways that we as a culture police our own thoughts. Carlin's tone was impish, but underneath he's mad as hell. "He was always a beacon to me," Louis C.K. said about the late comedian at a tribute in 2010. "Onstage, I feel the courage to say what I want to say because of him." TG

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