NEW YORK – For comedians of a certain age, there was one album that was worn out on a spinning top, obediently memorized and played out. It was George Carlin’s signature “Cool Clown.”
“The way George Carlin looked at the world and smashed it taught many of us how to be a comedian,” said Judd Apatow. “He introduced software into our brains about how to think like a comic.”
Apatow and Michael Bonfillo teamed up to honor Carlin, dean of countercultural comedians, by making the two-part HBO documentary “George Carlin’s American Dream.” The first half of the two-part documentary is released on Friday, the second – on Saturday.
“For most people, it’s on our comedy mountain Rushmore,” said Apatov, whose contributions include “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Lined Up.” “He’s definitely one of the best thinkers, but also writers and performers who have ever been in comedy.”
The documentary traces the rise and repeated rebirths of Carlin: from a mainstream, well-groomed comedian in a narrow tie and ironed hair to a bearded long-haired provocateur.
This change – from the role of a mocking hippie hippie in weather shows to a more real comedian who talks about power, language and human shortcomings – has taken its toll.
“He suffered a major financial blow,” Apatov said. “In the late’ 60s in Las Vegas, he was earning $ 12,500 a week. This is crazy money. And it all came down to the fact that the cafes in Greenwich Village paid almost nothing.
The documentary also openly discusses Carlin’s bad habit and personal upheavals. Kelly Carlin, the comedian’s daughter, wouldn’t want otherwise.
“I believe that it is better for all of us when we remove people from the pedestal – not to remove them, but to raise ourselves to their level. We’re all people here trying to figure out their way, “said Kelly Carlin, co-executive producer of the series.
A list of comedians testifying to Carlin’s genius was interviewed, including John Stewart, Paul Raiser, Stephen Wright, Alex Winter, Paul Provence, Robert Klein, Bill Baer, Beth Middler, Kevin Smith, Stephen Colbert, Hassan Minhaj and Judy Gold. “I wanted to be just like him,” Jerry Seinfeld says in the film.
“It wasn’t hard to get people to talk. It was difficult to decide who to ask, because I think his influence was influenced by a lot of people, ”Judd said. Bonfilo added: “It was exciting to see the breadth of comedians of all ages and backgrounds, as well as the impact he had on people.”
Carlin’s scathing views on life and language reached their zenith with his program “Seven Words You Can Never Say on TV”, which appeared in “Cool Clown”. When he uttered all seven at an exhibition in Milwaukee in 1972, he was arrested for disturbing the peace.
When these words were heard on a New York radio station, they led to a Supreme Court ruling in 1978 that upheld the government’s authority to authorize stations for broadcasting obscene language. “It is unusual that his material has actually created a new category of speech in our country,” Bonfilo said.
The HBO portrait is superbly enhanced by Carlin’s archives, which include post-it notes with ideas for jokes, scripts, home footage, letters and TV clips. Carlin kept everything from the Air Force letter, which fired him, to the legal documents his mother filed to divorce her tough husband. The directors were also lucky when they discovered 23 hours of brutally honest interviews he did for his autobiography.
Kelly Carlin wanted to put everything in the right hands. She says she found in Apatow a wonderful storyteller and someone who tells them from the heart. She was a big fan of his four-hour HBO documentary 2018 about comedian Harry Shendling.
“I knew Judd was going through his own grief around this, but he also brought into the world parts of Harry that Harry would never have shared – never shared out loud or directly, was restrained – but did it a certain way it was so respectful and allowed people to see a full man, ”she said.
“So I knew 100% that Judd would be right to do my father’s career, part of the story, and that he would take care of the more tender parts of this man’s story with genuine respect.”
Kelly Carlin said she actually relied on a few things from the documentary, such as how her father got a spot on the show “Tony Orlando and Dawn” to maintain his profile during the fix, and how he conducted the interview.
“Whenever he was interviewed, whether it was big interviews or even small interviews with college students, he revealed something about his heart, his thinking or his intention,” she said. “I always liked to look at it because my dad and I didn’t talk much. He didn’t share his inner life with people too much. “
The documentary shows Carlin’s transformations against the background of huge social changes – Watergate, Vietnam, Reagan, hippie culture, including. It also documents his couple in the early ’80s when he was in comedy before a show at Carnegie Hall revived his career. Carlin died in 2008.
“It has always been important for us to show how he reflected and shaped the culture,” Bonfillo said. “It was a two-way street.”
The documentary comes out at a time when Carlin’s observations are returning. The late stand-up went viral earlier this month thanks to a widespread abortion routine from his 1996 HBO special edition “Back In Town”.
“I really feel that one of the things that’s happening in our world right now is that we’re looking for our moral center,” Kelly Carlin said. “And I wonder why he keeps showing up because he was someone we could check with. I wonder how hungry we are for his voice now. ”
Mark Kennedy is in http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits
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