Legendary comedian George Carlin performed It's Bad For Ya, his 14th and unfortunately his last HBO comedy special live on March 1, 2008 from Wells Fargo Center For The Arts in Santa Rosa, California. A CD of the performance was previously released on July 29, 2008 and it is now available for home video on DVD and Blu-ray.
As the 68-minute special opens, Carlin walks out onto a stage that is dressed like a cozy living room. He wears a black shirt and pants and both his hair and beard are short and white. He now looks like someone’s kindly grandfather, leaving the viewer wondering if time has tempered his humor and language. He dispels any notion of that immediately, guns a-blazin’, with his declaration, “Fuck Lance Armstrong!” followed by, “And fuck Tiger Woods, too!” It’s startling to hear someone attack such accomplished and widely revered athletes. However, Carlin isn’t just trying to shock or be silly; he wants to make a point with his humor. He is sick of being told whom to admire and thinks everyone should decide for themselves.
Carlin’s comedy is geared to make you think about what he calls “humanity’s bullshit.” The show’s material has funny takes that cover the lifespan, from death to ugly babies. He goes after the self-esteem movement because not all kids are equal. He questions what people do in the afterlife and the notion that people’s parents look after them from Heaven. He is certain the Menedez brothers’ parents, who were killed by their children, took a pass and headed out into the universe. He also wonders why people are proud to be an American or Irish because “pride should be in something you achieve on your own, not something by accident of birth.”
But make no mistake: Carlin loves to be silly because eliciting laughter is his main goal, which is why he makes goofy faces to punctuate his jokes. In one routine, there’s no message behind his declaration that he’s an old fuck, which he points out is different from old man and an old fart. He details some of benefits of his age. He doesn’t have to worry about lifting heavy objects because someone will always help him if he pretends to struggle with it. He can leave any event early using the excuse he’s tired, even if it’s 7:30AM. He doesn’t have to remember anything anymore. He can even shit in his pants. In fact, it’s expected.
In the special, Carlin has one bit that’s not up to par with the rest of the material and went on for too long, which is ironic because it was about people who talk for too long about nothing important, both in person and over the phone.
As Carlin closes the show, he gets slightly more serious but is still humorous as he talks about the power of government and the delusion people have about their rights. He explains what Americans really have is a Bill of Temporary Privileges, and if we disagree, his proof is the Japanese Americans who were interred in 1942 because their parents were born in another country. He bids farewell to a loud round of applause.
Unfortunately, this is the last collection of new material Carlin will give us. Thankfully, much of his material is available in some form because his keen gift to skewer Life’s big stuff and its little stuff is needed. When they build the Mount Rushmore of stand-up comedians, he will be on it.
Although this was certainly no test of the format’s capabilities, the high definition video looks great. It looks consistent throughout and there were no flaws as if Carlin were performing in the same room with you. The audio is 2.0 PCM lossless and mainly uses the front speakers. The surround picks up the audience. There’s not much work for a subwoofer.
The Blu-ray has two extras. “Too Hip for The Room” was recorded on 12/17/2007 and it’s a 30-minute featurette where Carlin interviewed in 2007 for the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation’s “Archive of American Television.” Carlin provides an autobiography of his life and career. It was interesting to hear him say he hadn’t found his “voice” until in 1992, which was at least 20 years after he had given up the straight life and became a counterculture comedian.
His previous stand-up persona is captured on the other feature from an appearance on The Jackie Gleason Show from 1/25/69. Carlin has no beard, wears a suit, and his material is more traditional as he does a bit about the FBI having their own version of The Tonight Show. It ran for eight minutes and sounded like the audience laughter was canned because of how abruptly it stopped. The video shows its age. This is not yet the man who would inform the world of the “Seven Words You Cannot Say On TV.”