Carlin bringing new material to Hagerstown

February 15, 2007|by JULIE E. GREENE

George Carlin's been doing comedy for 50 years so by now people should know what to expect - at least in terms of his cynicism, expletives and explorations of language.

Tomorrow night Carlin returns to The Maryland Theatre for two shows with new material. He's not prepping for a 14th HBO show or writing a fourth book.

During a recent phone interview, Carlin wouldn't reveal too much about his new show.

The show includes "questioning some certain things we say and believe in this country, customs - questioning some of our customs in particular - things that revolve around God and country," Carlin said.

While Carlin performs shows, the attitudes and beliefs that he shares about culture and society are not an act but what he believes.


"I can't see doing this for a living if you're going to act, if you're going to make-believe something," said Carlin, 69, who lives in Venice, Calif.

And though he appears on stage to be an angry person, Carlin said he's not as angry about things as it might appear; he "heightens" his tone because he's projecting in a theater setting.

In fact, he said he's quite amenable to the fan who approaches him in public and finds it wonderful when they do.

"You know I was a fan. I was in their shoes once, I'll put it that way. I don't refuse autographs because I used to collect autographs when I was a kid."

Meeting someone famous is not a commonplace thing for most people.

"And I try to remember that and to make it, to let it be memorable for them. I'm not about to step on them and spoil that moment for them. I think too much of them for that. And I don't mean that just because they like me. People just recognize you and they want to make a contact. You can tell they're not real, real fans, but they kind of like you, they know you and they kind of like you, so I answer their questions or, if I'm not in a hurry, I shake their hands or take their picture or whatever they want," Carlin said.

Carlin's fame has grown beyond the stage and his appearance on the inaugural episode of "Saturday Night Live."

During the last decade, he has voiced a character on "The Simpsons" and acted in several movies, including three Kevin Smith movies - "Dogma," "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" and "Jersey Girl."

His voice work also has extended into motion pictures with "Happily N'Ever After" and "Cars," which is up for an Academy Award for best animated feature.

But it's his solo acts - whether on stage or HBO or his own published writings - for which he is most well known.

Carlin said he keeps computer files of notes about attitudes or silly observations, including his takes on language and the beliefs or attitudes people have concerning culture, religion, consumerism, government and popular beliefs or sentiments.

"When I disagree with them, it's potentially, it's potentially something useful to me," he said.

Those disagreements happen often.

"Generally, I am out of step. I've pretty much been out of step most of my life. I'm kind of an outsider, kind of a loner and I don't believe in many things. I believe in family and friends, a limited circle of friends. Beyond that there are not a lot of things I believe," he said.

In addition to their cynicism, Carlin's performances are known for being peppered with a decent amount of expletives.

Can he be funny without them?

"Well, of course, but the point is they're not there to be funny. Those are there for emphasis. Language like that is used to emphasize a point of view. If you're talking about sex per se or a sexual act or something, that's slightly different. But if you just say, 'He was so #%&*@! big,' that's an emphatic. That's more emphatic than, 'He was so big.'"

Is there anything off-limits when he's performing or writing a book?

"I can't think of anything. But I don't have reason to go into things that might be off-limits. I don't have anything about raping a baby because there's no reason for me to talk about that. That probably would be very difficult to sell.

"It's my belief that everything is context. Everything. Everything in life is context. ... That's what some people call situational ethics or situational morality. But it does depend on the context of things whether or not something is offensive to you."

If you go ...

WHAT: George Carlin Live

WHEN: 7 and 9:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 16

WHERE: The Maryland Theatre, 21 S. Potomac St., downtown Hagerstown

COST: $50. For tickets, go to or call 301-790-2000 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. today or tomorrow. The box office opens before the each show.

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