George Carlin: It's Bad For Ya

DVD review by Steve Bennett

It’s hard to believe it, but this is the first time that any of stand-up legend George Carlin’s work has ever officially been released in Britain. And all it took was for him to die.

This was his 14th HBO special, recorded in March last year, three months before he passed away at the age of 71.

There is, of course, no question of the cantankerous old iconoclast losing any of his passion just because he’s a septuagenarian. A grumpy old man moaning about minor irritations, he’s not, as you can tell from his bluntly provocative opening gambit: ‘Fuck Lance Armstrong – and while you’re at it, fuck Tiger Woods too…’

Of course, he plays up to the image he’s built up over more than half a century in comedy: ironically pointing to the ‘flawless logic’ that makes him so steadfast in his views and protesting that despite outward appearances, he does actually like people. For about three seconds.

Take any received opinion and he’s got a contrary one. No wonder the catchphrase for the show is: ‘It’s bullshit, and it’s bad for ya.’ Religion, clichés, human rights, the overprotection of children – they all get debunked with fiery evangelism by a self-confessed ‘old fuck’. It’s a term he prefers over ‘old man’ or ‘old fart’, reveling in the objectionable qualities that it carries.

This show is sometimes a triumph of attitude over wit, with rants full of disillusioned insight that keep you interested more than laughing, though it’s flecked with enough wit to raise many a smile.

Perhaps ghoulishly, Carlin also speaks of his own death, almost with anticipation, as well as dealing with the loss of his friends. Just what is etiquette of deleting them from your address book – and what do we really mean by the empty platitudes everyone is compelled to say to grieving relatives? His take on the subject is, typically, unsentimental, in keeping with the strong logical, pragmatic thread that runs through all his observations.

This DVD doesn’t show a man at the end of his career simply going through the motions, but a comic with intelligence and righteous indignation, which he funnels with a passion that comics half his age would envy.

It’s Bad For Ya is bioth a decent orientation for those unaware of Carlin’s work – though there are also better, earlier shows out there – and a fitting swansong for fans happy to know he bowed out with a bang, not a whimper.

Main feature: 69mins
Extras: None
Released by:Anchor Bay Home Entertainment on October 26, 2009
Price: £17.99. Click here to buy from Amazon at £10.98.

Published: 3 Nov 2009

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