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Interview with George Carlin

Americans don't question things anymore. We don't question things because everybody is fat and happy.

HBO

How did you come up with the title for your new special?

George Carlin

It's Bad For Ya refers to the bullshit in America that's all around us, from birth to death. It's part of a longer thought- the total sentence is, "It's Bullshit, Folks. It's All bullshit, and It's bad For Ya." And it is. A lot of bullshit is poisonous and toxic to you. So you have to spot the bullshit, and know which bullshit to walk around and which bullshit to meet head on.

HBO

So besides "bullshit," what can the audience expect to hear in the show?

George Carlin

A lot of the show has to do with things we don't question. Americans don't question things anymore. We don't question things because everybody is fat and happy- and way to f**kin' prosperous for their own good. Everybody ahs got a cell phone that'll make pancakes now. So they don't want to rock the boat. Everybody just goes along. That's just how you get bullshited; by not looking at things carefully and questioning them.

HBO

What are some of your questions?

George Carlin

I question American beliefs and accepted American thought patterns. There are things in this show about patriotism, about civic beliefs, civic customs and - civic superstitions, I call them.

HBO

Civic superstitions... like what?

George Carlin

"Proud to Be an American' and "God bless America." These little slogans we just throw off that are kind of empty really. This patriotic stuff that's in our lives - that's jammed down our throats from the time we are children. "Land of the Free, Home of the Brave," "the American Dream," "Justice is blind," "All men are equal," "The press is free," "Your vote counts." Everybody knows this stuff is bullshit half the time. But we accept it, because they pound it into your head before you have the brains to reset sophisticated ideas like that.

So, I talk about teaching children to question things. It's the duty of a parent to teach a child to question authority. Parents don't dot hat, because parents figure themselves, and they don't want to undermine their own bulllshit inside the household. So they stroke the kid, and the kid strokes them, and everybody strokes each other, and they are all stroking each other, and they grow up f**ked up and they come to shows like mine.

Stand up comedy is a vulgar art. It can be vulgar in the usual way we use that word. But vulgar really means "of the people." It's the people's art...

HBO

Are there things you say in a show like, "God doesn't give a flying f**k about America," which 20 years ago, no one would think twice about it? But now, they are almost dangerous, close to "treasonous" things to say?

George Carlin

Maybe 20 years ago, they wouldn't have had some of the little "edge" to them that they seem to have today. Although, I am not sure of that because it depends on who is listening at any given time. Certain people would never have wanted these things to go down as easily as I have tried to put them down. But these days, because of this kind of fake terrorism-war that we are supposed to be engaged in, there is this new set of rules for how you are supposed to think. It's a very dangerous time, and people now that. I am just trying to show my way of punching holes in that. I am just trying to expose it from the comic's angle.

HBO

Do you consider yourself to be a stand- up comic?

George Carlin

Yes. I am a stand-up comedian, and I love that title. Stand-up comedy is a vulgar act. It can be vulgar the usual way we use that word. But vulgar really means "of the people." It's the people's art. Just stand up and talk about the things that are on your mind. Whether it's shopping or credit cards or your wife or your kids, or if it's stuff about America, it's all stand-up comedy.

HBO

You have been doing this a while.

George Carlin

Yes.

I just feel betrayed by my fellow Americans and by my fellow man.

HBO

Yet, somehow, you're still pissed off, sharp and on point. How do you maintain that edge?

George Carlin

Well, over the years, you are supposed to get batter at what you do. Whether you play a violin, or you throw a baseball, you are supposed to improve. So writers improve, performers improve. You find things about your technique that you can streamline. Things that serve you better. Now, in terms of the kind of things I like to talk about, I have always liked to fins out-even as a kid-where the line was drawn. Then deliberately step across it. Bringing the audience with me and making them happy that they came. I like to find their soft spots. To push on the things that would bother them to talk about. I deliberately look for them. "God," "the flag," "children," "death," all the things that make people a little bit nervous. I like to get in there and open em up to take some of the fear out.

HBO

Do people ask "What are you so angry about?"

George Carlin

I have to tell you - I don't experience it as anger. It doesn't come through me that way. I don't live an angry life. I rarely lose my temper. I have never had a fight. What they see as anger - is a real dissatisfaction, a real contempt for the choices that my fellow humans have made. I think we have squandered all our gifts as humans. We were given great gifts, and we went for Mammon and God. We went for both of them. It's the same in America, this country was given great gifts. We went for gizmos, toys and gadgets. All we want is to have as many things as the guy across the street. And that kind of things bothers me. I just feel betrayed by my fellow Americans and by my fellow man. You could call it anger if you want, because its heightened on stage, and it probably reads as anger. But I don't feel it that way. I feel it as a discontent. I never say "we," I never say "Look at what we have done." I say, "look what you have done." I always put it on them. It's not me. It's you folks. You have done this to yourselves. I am just over here watching. Leave me out.

HBO

So what do you say to people who take it the wrong way... or take offense?

George Carlin

If you are not offending someone, you are not doing your job as a comedian. No matter what kind of material you are doing, you have to be rubbing them a bit against the grain they have grown used to. For the artistic tension to arise: for the fun to start. If you are just, OK'ing everything, it's not much of a night. People who don't like me - I never hear from, so I don't know what their story is. But I don't blame them. I have my own little cut of the pie in America. My people, who like my stuff.

George Carlin: It's Bad for Ya