“It’s Bad for Ya!” (2008): George Carlin’s Relatively Biting Finale (Review)

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.

George Carlin, its bad for ya, standup, comedy, review

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.

Overall: 7.1/10

Written By Erlingur Einarsson

Icelander living in the United Kingdom. Film reviewer and columnist by night, sub editor for Imagine Publishing in the UK by day. Wants to see everything in the world. Has been told that he has an “unhealthy” obsession for Sam Neill and that he should “talk to a specialist about it.”

  • http://www.cinekatz.com/ Nick Powell

    Solid and simple review, E. As I mentioned, I never could find a way to review stand up myself. And as great as those quotes are, it’s not the same unless Carlin is delivering them. Rest in peace, you old bastard. I’ll have to watch this or another one of his specials soon.

  • Shane

    Very nice! I’m a huge Carlin fan, and this is a great review. He’s not always the laugh out loud kind of comedian, but I find myself quoting his material on almost a daily basis. He’s the best at overstating the obvious.

  • Erlingur Grétar Einarsson

    Thanks! And you should definitely check out his specials. Many of them are on Netflix.

  • http://www.cinekatz.com/ Nick Powell

    Yeah, I had a Bill Burr night last night. Stand up is much easier to enjoy than a movie when it’s way too late and you just don’t care lol.

  • Erlingur Grétar Einarsson

    Thanks man! I’m similar. Every time I go to the airport, his “Three big questions” goes through my head.

  • jjames36

    Great work. And agreed. He was funny, but that was of secondary import to the rest of his wit.

  • Erlingur Grétar Einarsson

    Thanks! It’s also that special inflection, the way he talked, which I love. It kind of conveyed how he was taking the piss out of something at the same time he was complaining about it.

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