Dateline; The distant past.
I am 16 or 17. I am channel-surfing all three channels.
“This is the Hippy Dippy Weatherman with the hippy dippy weather, man.”
“And today’s high was 212. That’s when the weather station caught on fire.”
This was an era when “Get Smart” and F-Troop" were the hippest, smartest comedies on TV.
“And the temperature at the airport … No one lives at the airport.”
This was an age of great stand-up comedy, but the punch lines tended along the lines of, “Take my wife - please.”
“And tonight’s forecast. Dark, continued dark …”
I was convinced I’d accidentally discovered a fourth channel. Some secret network with restricted access. This guy was way too different, too original for the TV I had grown up on. Too funny for words.
And ultimately too funny to keep down. Next thing, the Hippy Dippy Weatherman was all over the airwaves, in various incarnations doing news, weather, and sports.
“Scientists have just discovered a new number. It’s called bleen. It falls somewhere between seven and eight.”
And also straight stand-up.
“What do they call one M&M?”
No punchline. You’re left pondering. Or (pointing to the cleft between the nose and the upper lip), “What do they call this?”
He went for the belly. He went for the brain. He got you laughing. He got you thinking. Just in time, too. I was outgrowing “Mad” magazine and the sixties were in full swing.
Fast forward to two years ago. I’m in the TV room of a friend’s house. He pulls out George Carlin. I think it was from an HBO special. The Hippy Dippy Weatherman of old is looking a bit worse for wear, but age has only improved him. His dark edge is darker and edgier.
The final part of his routine picks up from where he started many years earlier when he forecast, “dark, continued dark.” Only this time the earth is going up in a fireball. Something about meth-lab-stoked southern California forest fires reaching the east coast and precipitating some kind of space-time cosmic collapse. Book of Revelation, George Carlin style. He was unquestionably the funniest man on the planet. But also deadly serious. All the great ones are.
By now you’ve read and heard about the influence George Carlin has had on every comedian who came after him, or for that matter anyone who has ever laughed or rubbed two neurons together. Suffice to say, in my life, he comes somewhere after Jesus and Einstein and before Elvis.
We’re talking big influence.
Thank you, George. I’ll let you know how the Apocalypse turns out.