Synopsis: In “Complaints & Grievances,” George Carlin’s 12th HBO Comedy special, taped at the Beacon Theater in New York on November 17, 2001 (ten weeks after 9/11), Carlin casts his usual jaundiced eye on America and its inhabitants.
From the events of 9/11, to the Ten Commandments, to why you should never stop if you run someone over with your car, nothing is sacred to this 45-year veteran of the comedy scene. Self-help books, answering machines, gun nuts, visors, motivational seminars, pictures of children, singers with one name, hot air balloons and guys named Todd; take your pick. They all come in for a special, closer Carlin look in this latest hilarious collection.
‘Complaints and Grievances’ was my first real exposure to George Carlin. I had heard of him before, what with the “seven dirty words” fracas, but he barely registered on my radar until I saw the CD version of this 2001 HBO special in a second-hand store for 4$. Curious as always, I decided that it was time to find out what the fuss was all about.
And it started my
downward spiral growing interest in George Carlin, which was then fuelled by his memorable performances in a few Kevin Smith pictures. Then I downloaded a few of his HBO specials – after which I ended up buying his big @$$ boxed set, ‘All My Stuff’. Now, all I have to do is hear his audio recordings and read his books and I’m set.
I’m likely biased, but this particular show still resonates with me more than a decade later, despite having seen all his other stand up routines. What connected with me the most, his blistering rants, are more potent here than they are anywhere else, and they speak to me in ways that nothing else does. I’m a bit of a ranter myself, so I understand his discontentment.
Watching him is almost soothing, like comfort food for me. I especially like when he lambasts a series of people that irritate him or that he simply can’t stand – not only do I agree with many of his comments, but nothing amuses me more than when he introduces each group with over-the-top aggression. For example: “Here’s some more people who ought to be strapped into chairs and beaten with hammers: people who wear visors.”
Making that kind of exaggerated, but tongue-firmly-planted-in-cheek, comment is cathartic for the likes of me (when I indulge in it and/or slip up, mind you, seeing as I try to reduce the frequency for the sake of the people around me), so his own diatribes always have me convulsing with laughter. There’s just something about channelling one’s frustration, if not out-right anger, into words instead of deeds, to let out some steam. And when it’s accompanied by laughter, all the better.
So his 18-part segment on ‘People who oughta be killed’ is the ideal salve for all of the festering sores in my soul. While I wasn’t as crazy about his sarcastic commentary on traffic accidents nor the strained logic infused in his revision of the Ten Commandments, his opening remarks on the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, were perfectly pitched, and his bit on our predilection for picking at things on our body was utterly hilarious.
‘Complaints and Grievances’ is delivered fast and furious; it’s hard to imagine that a 64-year-old man of ill-health could turn into a rabid pit bull, but this is the George Carlin on display here – a far cry from the laid-back, loose comedian from 20 years prior. I’ve become quite the George Carlin fan at this point. And yet, of all the stuff I’ve seen over the years, the thing that grips me the most remains ‘Complaints and Grievances’.