George Carlin’s death on Sunday at seventy one reminds me of how much scrappy fun it was to see him anywhere. Yes, that includes movies. Many of them bad movies. Many of them merrily mocked by Carlin himself. But in a DVD week that gives us such flabby newbies as 10,000 B.C., Definitely, Maybe, and The Spiderwick Chronicles, we could do worse than punch a few Carlin movies into our DVD players to see the man in action again and hear his distinctive, hypocrisy-shattering comic voice. I’m thinking now of 1989’s Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure in which Carlin played Rufus, the guitar-jamming guru (if only the Love Guru had a fraction of his wit) who arrives from the future to help Alex Winter’s Bill and Keanu Reeves’ Ted. Read his first words and you can hear him saying them:
“Hi. Welcome to the future. The air is clean. The water’s clean. Even the dirt is clean. . . And we have more excellent waterslides than any other planet we communicate with. I’m telling you, this place is great. But it almost wasn’t. You see, 700 years ago the Two Great Ones ran into a few problems. So now I have to travel back in time to help them out. If I should fail to keep these two on the correct path, the basis of our society will be in danger. Don’t worry. It’ll all make sense. I’m a professional.”
And a professional Carlin most assuredly was, a profesional maverick. Carlin could save even the deadliest movie, except maybe for Barbra Streisand’s Prince of Tides, which he claimed he enjoyed making. Enjoying watching it is another matter entirely. Watching Carlin though is a treat. Don’t start 1968’s With Six You Get Eggrooll, Carlin’s first movie. It was Doris Day’s last, and for good reason. Here are the goodies:
Car Wash (1976) with Carlin as a cabbie on the hunt for a “tall, black, blonde chick.”
Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1990), a funny sequel, in which Carlin’s Rufus tells the dudes: “Very important, do Not do your homework without wearing headphones. Repeat, do not …”
Dogma (1999), the first of three films Carlin did with his most compatible screen collaborator Kevin Smith. As Cardinal Glick, a religious marketing hustler, Carlin comes up with a friendlier symbol for Jesus than the crucifix — — the Buddy Christ.” Says the Cardinal, “Fill them pews, people, that’s the key. Grab the little ones as well. Hook ’em while they’re young.” When someone claims it sounds kind of like the tobacco industry,” the comeback is pure Carlin: “Christ, if only we had their numbers.”
Jersey Girl (2004) is Carlin’s third film with Kevin Smith and his turn as a granddad, said Carlin, “is the best feeling I ever had about my acting.” The film is Smith’s first foray into cuddly, but Carlin adds the edge, especially when Gramps refuses to play it sunny: “Sun even shines on a dog’s ass some days.”
The Aristocrats (2005) featues Carlin, and 99 other comics, taking a crack a classic dirty joke. Priceless.
Cars (2006) features Carlin as the voice of animmated VW bus. And what a voice as he answers a demand to stop his radio from blasting the Jimi Hendrix’s version of “The Star-Spangled Banner, dismissed as disrespectful junk: “Respect the classics, man!”
George Carlin was his own kind of classic, and these movies join his standup in respecting the rebel comic’s right to laugh at the kings. In 1978, Carlin was censored by no less than the Supreme Court for performing a routine on the “seven dirty words” that can’t be said on radio and television. I leave you to recall your own best of Carlin moments with a seven word salute to a man whose irreverance will be much missed: Shit. Piss. Fuck. Cunt. Cocksucker. Motherfucker. Tits.