The late, great George Carlin did snark like no one ever could. Even as he grew older and gradually morphed into an old man (or “old fuck” as he would have it), hunched back, white sneakers and all, he never lost his bark. Ever since his breakthrough performance of his “seven words”, which he’s undoubtedly most famous for, he spent decades telling people what they were doing wrong with the lives – and getting them to applaud him for it.
And while It’s Bad For Ya, his 14th and final HBO special before his death showed the bite wasn’t as strong as before, his observations and commentary on the world around us were as apt as anyone’s.
It’s Bad For Ya has Carlin going far and wide, from death and religion to overprotected children and the general sorry state of American culture. All the while he walks among a slightly contrived old-style conservatory setting, more reminiscent of Andy Rooney than the unfiltered Carlin, and it betrays the punch he brings in his stand-up routines, who challenges the audience with his very direct opinions.
What’s interesting in Carlin’s style is that he doesn’t go for the jokey laugh; he goes for the shocked-response laugh, but It’s Bad For Ya goes through dull periods. The religion bit mostly falls flat, as he mainly rehashes opinions already voiced better before by himself, while he hits a home run in his observations on the overprotective parenting culture of today, especially when he comments on the unending praise that must be handed out to children for doing not much at all, and the outrageous way in which they are made to feel special (“Leadership camp? Isn’t that where Hitler went?”). His observations on himself getting older are equally hilarious and apt.
His best bits, though, aren’t the jokes, or the swearing snarkiness. It’s his unfiltered self-deprecation of himself, his real-life anecdotes and not least his “advice”, like:
“You can even make believe you have Alzheimer’s Disease. That’s a lot of fun. You look around the dining room table and you say “Who are you people and where is my horse?”
Even if George Carlin wouldn’t bring a single laugh or chuckle for 90 minutes, he would still be worth watching, as a smarter, more common-sense comedian is hard to find, so It’s Bad For Ya remains thoroughly interesting and engaging throughout, even though the laughs are lacking from it at times. It’s Bad For Ya may be a fitting goodbye from one of comedy’s greatest minds. And his final joke is delightfully in character:
“Personally, when it comes to rights, I think one of two things is true: I think either we have unlimited rights, or we have no rights at all. Personally, I lean toward unlimited rights – I feel, for instance, I have the right to do anything I please. But, if I do something you don’t like, I think you have the right to kill me. So where you gonna find a fairer fucking deal than that? So the next time some asshole says to you, “I have a right to my opinion,” you say, “Oh yeah? Well, I have a right to my opinion, and my opinion is that you have no right to your opinion.” Then shoot the fuck and walk away!”
The Good: Carlin always knows how to get to the core of an issue, preferably via a few f-bombs. And it’s always a delight.
The Bad: There are lulls here, which is a shame, since so much else in it is very strong.
The Ugly: Carlin’s white sneakers.