Isn’t it unnerving that doctors call what they do “practice”? Anyway, George Carlin—the legendary speaker of those words, among plenty of priceless others—is set to be the subject of the next project by American filmmaker Judd Apatow, who has announced that he is working on a documentary about the late comedian. Carlin was born an angry old man in 1937 and is considered an all-time great in the world of standup comedy for his grim, confrontational, no-nonsense deliberations on politics, society, and language. He died in 2008, aged 71, a few months after the release of his last comedy special It’s Bad For Ya.
In an interview with the Boston Globe newspaper, Apatow said he was working with long-time collaborator Michael Bonfiglio for the documentary. “The way the world works now, if you don’t organize someone’s history it disappears down the digital drain,” he told the paper.
Over the past three decades, Apatow has etched his own stylistic imprint on American culture, first through the cult show Freaks & Geeks, the early cancellation of which fans still mourn 20 years later, and then through forays into Hollywood with films like The 40-Year-Old-Virgin, You Don’t Mess With The Zohan, Knocked Up and Pineapple Express. In 2018, Apatow directed, produced and released The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling on HBO, a documentary that explores the life and legacy of comedian Garry Shandling.
George Carlin is widely cited as one of the most influential comedians ever, in American comedy and beyond. His style was an endless, breathless stream of thoughts, often descending into highly articulate fury propped up by fascinating wordplay. Given his content, he often courted controversy, starting with his groundbreaking routine from 1972: The Seven Dirty Words You Can Never Say On Television. Following considerable hand-wringing about morality and decency and the nature of free speech, and a barrage of complaints and outrage, the matter even made it to the Supreme Court. Carlin won, and he was allowed to use the expletives from his list on television! (No, just kidding.)
Though he has experience in documentary filmmaking too, Apatow’s most prominent fiction work has an aesthetic steeped in chatty, low-stakes premises and modern trivialities, the exact opposite of Carlin’s weighty cynicism, so it should be an interesting mashup. Plus it’s not a bio-pic so we’ve wasted our month’s rent betting on Seth Rogen starring as Carlin.
DA Picks: Top 5 George Carlin Moments
1. 7 Words You Can’t Say On Television: The iconic bit that led to the aforementioned landmark Supreme Court decision. A must-watch for any comedy fan.
2. Germs, Immune System: “What are ya gonna do when some super virus comes along that turns your vital organs into liquid shit?” Truly prophetic, George.
3. The American Dream: Carlin goes off on America’s cult of consumerism. Hits as hard today as it did in 2005.
4. Ten Commandments: George Carlin masterfully lampooning the absurdities of religion and superstition.
5. Dumb Americans: Well, the title says it all really. But Carlin backs up his hilarious misanthropy with an insightful critique of the American system.