Sunday, March 7, 2010

Last Words by George Carlin with Tony Hendra

Last Words is the autobiography of George Carlin. With the help of his friend, Tony Hendra, George started writing his autobiography in 1993. When George died in June 2008 at the age of seventy-one, the book remained unpublished. Tony was left to finish the job and give us George's "last words".

I loved this sensational, well-written autobiography from the man who loved words. It starts off with a bang and remains interesting throughout. Tony Hendra provides an excellent introduction about how and when the book was written. The book then goes on to cover George's life: childhood, days in radio, comedy with Jack Burns, meeting Brenda (his wife), his on stage live performances and much more. Before I read the book, I really didn't know much about Carlin, but I suspect that the book doesn't hide much. It outlines his triumphs and failures, the drugs (his addiction), the alcohol (Brenda's addiction), the comedy, the arrests and the heart problems.

Each chapter is preceded by a photo. It was neat to see how George changed/aged over the years. The story also detailed the changes George experienced in his lifetime. As the world changed, he changed. As he changed, his comedic focus changed. While his comedy is not the whole focus of the book, fans will be glad to see that some of his more famous routines have been included (at least snippets of them anyway).

I was familiar with some of Carlin's earlier work ("Dirty Words", "Stuff"), but his later routines were new to me and surprised me a bit. I was particularly intrigued by his "The Planet is Fine" notions as well as his take on groups. Funny and thought provoking.

Favourite quotes:
On the way George and Patrick were raised by their mother:
The way Patrick [George's brother] puts it is concise: Mary wanted two Little Lord Fauntleroys. What she got was a pair of hardened dog turds. (page 45)

On his long hair:
...I always had long hair -- only I used to keep it inside my head.(page 141)

From one of his routines:
I got fired last year in Las Vegas for saying shit. In a town where the big game is called craps.(page 147)

On why his "Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television" is one of his favourites:
...if for no other reason than the grief it caused people who deserve to have grief caused to them.(page 162)

On his responsibilities to his audience:
Get laughs, of course, dazzle them from time to time with form, craft, verbal fireworks, but above all engage their minds.(page 246)

Highly recommended. This book is a definite must read for fans. Those looking for a really good biography/memoir will also enjoy it.

For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit the Simon and Schuster website.

For more information about George Carlin and his work, please visit George Carlin's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at Simon and Schuster for this review copy.

Last Words by George Carlin, Free Press (Simon and Schuster), ©2009. ISBN 9781439172957(Hardcover), 344p.

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