In Doin’ It Again, the minutiae of everyday life is up for Carlin’s hilarious interpretation as he takes on the best of the worst in all of us. From embarrassing underwear situations to people who announce their bathroom activities, nothing escapes this comedic veteran’s watchful eye. Cancer, rape, stupid people, dogs, organ donor programs, when toilet paper became bathroom tissue, “pulling the plug,” and offensive languages all receive Carlin’s special treatment in this uproarious performance.
“I don’t like words that hide the truth. I don’t like words that conceal reality. I don’t like euphemisms, or euphemistic language. And American English is loaded with euphemisms. Because Americans have a lot of trouble dealing with reality. Americans have trouble facing the truth. So they invent this kind of soft language to protect themselves from it.”
This is the second special in what could arguably be considered the third phase of George Carlin’s career. As of ‘What Am I Doing In New Jersey?’, Carlin started to tackle socio-political issues with such fire and venom that it was impossible to stop paying attention. It’s like the proverbial straw broke the camel’s back and he just couldn’t take it any more – he suddenly had to unleash all his pent-up frustrations to the delight of audiences.
Carlin continued to be hilarious even though he now tackled more serious matter than he once did. Actually, I like to think that he became funnier by virtue of the fact that he had more focus and conviction in his delivery; observations and humour will more likely reach its intended audience when the speaker truly believes in what he’s saying. Carlin most certainly believes in freedom of expression, and is clearly fed up with the hypocrisies of North American society. So he pillories it all cleverly and suitably so.
The mercifully short segment on rape made me slightly uncomfortable, however; it even cooled my enthusiasm temporarily. But his whole point was that words don’t have a negative or positive connotation – that words are “good” or “bad” depending on the context and intent of the individual making use of them. It’s an extremely valid point, even though I don’t agree that carelessness or insensitivity is justified; if taken too far, so-called freedom of speech can be used to manipulate, incite hatred, and other fun stuff.
But it’s a tribute to Carlin’s keen eye and observational comedy style that I am discussing the meat of his routine more so than the humour itself. And it’s not that this show wasn’t funny – it most certainly was. But Carlin managed to get us to think about the use of language from many perspectives, including a feminist one, which I thought was quite sharp on his part. He even discussed our politically-correct lingo, which was certainly thought-provoking, even if it left me with more questions than answers.
And that’s okay: questions are good because they force reflection. This is exactly why Carlin’s best material comes up in this third part of his career: because he could make us laugh and force us to think at the same time. His angle or position may not always be easy-peasy, but I don’t think that he was purposely trying get a rise out of people. And he was certainly not as extreme as some people are. In fact, he tended to fluctuate from one side or the other of the centre most of the time.