I got home from vacation last weekend late Saturday. After a day of airport television and limited Internet service, I was fairly well acquainted with key events in the world. Imagine my surprise then, to wake up Monday morning and discover that one of the all-time comedic greats had passed away. George Carlin was dead at 71.
Over the week I’ve seen some impressive tributes paid to Carlin, from a hilarious Colbert Report
salute to three hours of Carlin’s comedy on Dementia Radio Thursday night. There’s no denying Carlin’s influence on the world of comedy, and even people who didn’t like how he was saying things had to admit he was at least saying things that needed to be said.
Carlin wasn’t just the personification of vulgarity, however. There was a softer side to the man. Hell, this was Mr. Conductor on Shining Time Station
, as he pointed out a time or two in his comedy. While Carlin could curse up a storm with his seven dirty words, he also had roles in film that had a poignancy to them. So we pay tribute to one of the greatest voices in the last decade with a look at roles that took him out of his comedic stereotype and showed just how great Carlin could be.
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure
Bill and Ted
may have been responsible for making Keanu Reeves a household name (what happened Alex Winter?) but it takes real out of the box thinking to take a comedian like George Carlin and place him in the Yoda role of the movies. Carlin’s Rufus serves as mentor to Bill and Ted, the voice from the future that guides them into their roles as saviors and unifiers of the world. I think just about anyone who was familiar with Carlin’s comedy had to do a double take when he played a more somber, soft-spoken figure from a future based on two surfer dudes. While the sequel affords Rufus a little more action, I still prefer his appearance in the first movie – a glimpse of a future truly at peace where everyone is excellent to each other.
I know Kevin Smith’s departure from his Askewniverse wasn’t well received, but it marks one of the finest roles George Carlin ever got to play. As Bart Trinke, Carlin gets to play the gruff father to Ben Affleck’s character, but also the soft-hearted grandfather to Raquel Castro. Smith wrote a fantastic, realistic character for Carlin here – the figure who is frustrated at watching his son make mistake after mistake with his life, who can’t help but yell at his son for all of his errors, but a character who is motivated almost completely by love for his family. Carlin brings both laughter and tears to the movie and shows just how versatile, sensitive, and phenomenal a force the comedian could be.
Carlin’s Filmography: Car Wash
(1976), Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey
(1991), The Prince of Tides
(1999), Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back
Enjoy our Double Feature suggestions? and maybe we’ll use them in a future column.