George Carlin’s progressive bona fides are no secret, but he never went the full Colbert.
The late comedian hammered the Religious Right, President Ronald Reagan and other GOP-friendly targets in his celebrated career.
He also slammed liberal sacred cows, too.
Carlin once dubbed environmentalists “self-righteous” souls who “don’t care about the planet,” a bit seen in the new HBO docuseries “George Carlin’s American Dream.”
Carlin’s genius didn’t make exceptions for any one side. He leaned aggressively to the Left, of course, but he tweaked his fellow liberals if the opportunity arose. Hypocrisy, then and now, is bipartisan. Carlin understood that better than anyone.
Sound like somebody else on the pop culture radar?
Bill Maher routinely mocks his fellow progressives, mostly via his weekly HBO series “Real Time with Bill Maher.” Maher savages woke culture, Identity Politics and the modern Left’s hunger to censor speech.
He even sat down for a smart, civil debate with The Daily Wire co-founder Ben Shapiro. That act alone set Maher apart from most progressive peers. Remember what happened when actor/producer Mark Duplass shared a pro-Shapiro sentiment on social media?
Carlin is back in the cultural conversation thanks to “George Carlin’s American Dream,” debuting May 20. The two-part documentary, co-directed by Judd Apatow, recalls the groundbreaking career of one of stand-up’s brightest stars.
The docuseries not only examines his formative years but how he, according to the filmmakers, predicted much of the cultural chaos churning 14 years after his death.
It helps that so much of Carlin’s “stuff” is timeless, to his everlasting credit.
The New York Times recently noted the current battle over Carlin’s legacy. Progressives share his bits blasting pro-lifers, for example. Conservatives, in turn, suggest he’d recoil over vaccine mandates and anti-speech measures like the failed Disinformation Governance Board.
Both sides offer solid arguments, though it’s clear Carlin would align with Democrats on most modern issues. He railed against “white men” in his earlier work, including a savage bit declaring golf “racist.”
This isn’t the Democratic party Carlin once knew, though.
The 2022 model can’t say what a woman is, embraces abortion up until the moment of birth and routinely limits free speech across the culture. It stands down as violent protests roil the nation and cheers Big Tech censorship.
Progressives also want unvaccinated Americans to lose their jobs, despite the medication not living up to its pre-release hype.
That’s being kind.
Carlin railed against racially-charged police brutality decades ago. Would he do the same now, knowing that many narratives around police violence are wrong?
The current crop of liberal comics might confound Carlin.
They refuse to hold President Joe Biden accountable for a disastrous year-plus in office, preferring to attack cable news stars who lack the ability to forge a single law.
How would Carlin react to modern progressives. not to mention peers unwillingness to speak truth to power? Would he go the Maher route, clinging to his principles without holding back on modern hypocrisies, Left and Right?
Carlin could chart a different course, too. He could abandon the principles that made him a star, the rebellious spirit that sparked so many comedy highlights.
In short, he could be like Howard Stern 2.0.
The self-described King of All Media once stood proudly for free speech across media platforms. Stern questioned the government and refused to follow media-approved narratives on subjects like race and politics.
He was a rebel in the Carlin mode, battling radio executives, media outlets and fellow disk jockeys. And, in most cases, he emerged triumphant.
That Stern is no more.
The current model embraces government dictates, burns few calories defending free speech and fawns over Democrats. His obsequious interview with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, later disgraced on multiple counts, is a career lowlight.
Is that the Carlin we’d see today, a tribalist who can’t call out the hypocrisy of his own “side?”
Carlin’s comedy took on a coal black hue late in his career. He actively rooted against humanity in bit after bit, a sour note to a legendary, and humanist, career.
His cultural comments did offer one powerful clue to how he’d process the modern world. He loved people individually, and the docuseries recalls that part of his persona.
Groups? He hated them. That group mentality is a key factor behind our tribal times. We too often hate pundits or politicians because they belong to the other group, not ours.
That kind of thinking irritated Carlin, suggesting the comic legend would look to Maher, not Stern, for moral support.
Photograph by Courtesy of George Carlin’s Estate/HBO