To call the late George Carlin a comedian -- even an undeniably brilliant one -- would be a serious understatement. Most comedians hop up on the stage and deliver gags about sex, politics, drugs and airline food, and some of 'em are seriously funny people. But Carlin wouldn't bother with such slight efforts. This was a man who wanted to address the ills of our society (all of 'em!), but he knew that the best way to get his points across was through the powers of wit, cleverness and intelligence. Comedians (even good ones) are a dime a dozen ... but there will never be another monologue master on par with George Carlin.
Even as a kid -- long before I should have been allowed to enjoy his rants -- I knew Carlin was something special. Unlike many of his contemporaries (Robin Williams, Steve Martin, Richard Pryor, etc.), Carlin did not see The Movie Biz as the big brass ring, one to be snatched and hoarded forever at the expense of the stand-up stage. The simple truth is, and I mean this with nothing but affection and respect, George Carlin was not much of an actor. For the most part, producers saw the man as a crotchety little supporting player: Car Wash (1976), Americathon (1979), Outrageous Fortune (1987), Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989), and Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey (1991) represent the most that filmmakers could do with George Carlin. (He also had a small part in Barbra Streisand's The Prince of Tides, which of course I've never seen.)