For an artist, there is nothing more imprisoning than success. Well, I guess actual jail counts too. And, you know what, the poverty that makes you unable to pursue your art in any meaningful way can also be quite imprisoning. Scratch that; there is a list of things that can imprison an artist. Comedy legend George Carlin often felt imprisoned by a list of his own making. At the height of his career in the 90s, Carlin hated that people kept associating him with his seven bad words.
From his iconic album class clown in 1972, Carlin’s hysterical list of seven obscenities haunted him for decades. It’s not like he regrets the bit or anything, rather he feels his comedy has matured considerably since then. As he mentioned in his posthumously published autobiography, Last Words, Carlin found the correlation so boring because of his conscious efforts to weave his artistic and personal maturation into his act. The George Carlin of the 60s was a completely different beast from the crass counterculture hero he became in the 70s. In the second half of the 70s and into the 80sCarlin began to further strip the fraud of his tame public persona to reveal his true self. And although his final artistic transformation did not bear fruit until 1994 Jamming in New YorkCarlin’s glacial evolution has always happened in the public eye.
A step in Carlin’s journey of self-discovery is the track featured in the video above. As he began to weed out the excess around his comedy to focus on his now-iconic style, Carlin worked on a slew of sets that now look weird in retrospect. While not everyone’s cup of tea, I find the video to be an interesting piece of the mosaic that is Carlin’s epic career.