George Carlin: Carlin on Campus

Synopsis: In his New York City grammar school, George Carlin was known as a “disruptive influence in the classroom.” In this concert, the ultimate class clown is back in school at UCLA making another generation of students roar with laughter.

Taped on April 19, 1984, Carlin’s imaginative and irreverent performance demonstrates why he has sustained so long as one of America’s most popular comedians.

The routines include: “The Prayer,” “Consumer Hints,” “Cars and Driving #1,” “A Place for My Stuff,” “Newscast #4,” “Embarrassments” and several award-winning animated segments.


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After watching a handful of George Carlin HBO specials, you’d have to think that they’d all blend into one. In some way they do: after all, they all consist of a guy on a stage trying to make an audience laugh – and mostly through dialogue.

But Carlin’s shows actually do have some minor distinguishing features, like the stage set-up (in the round, for instance, for ‘Again!’), or this one’s rather intriguing design, featuring geometrical props and white lines painted on the stage.

This particular HBO special also had some animated interludes throughout. In what was once a lengthier newscast segment in Carlin’s past routines, we find here short bursts of news bit parodies being read from time to time during the show, accompanied by semi-relevant animation.

I don’t know if Carlin actually interrupted his routine to read these bits or if this was wedged in after the fact by HBO, but it felt out of place, a little jarring. It doesn’t help that the animation isn’t exactly of exceptional quality, either; it looks like hand-drawn doodles that you might find on Sesame Street or some such low-budget TV production. confused

Conversely, making up for this peculiar flow, Carlin was extremely animated during this set, making a lot of comical faces and being very physical in his performance. Granted, other stand-up comedians (Robin Williams comes to mind) tend to be quite agitated on stage – but that’s hardly Carlin modus operandi. While he might pale in comparison to some of his peers, for him it was a manic performance. winking0002 Free Emoticons   Winking

The material was generally pretty good, but I much prefer his more socio-political phase, which would come in a few years. As well, this special was all too brief in comparison to his previous specials (snicker, snicker… this comment brings to mind Woody Allen’s opening remarks in ‘Annie Hall’, doesn’t it? tongue0024 Free Emoticons   Sticking Out Tongue). I’d say that ‘Carlin On Campus’ is a good Carlin show, but it’s hardly exemplary. He has done better.

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