I was going to call this post there’s too much fucking music, but that would have been stealing the title of (the late great) George Carlin’s “new” comedy routine.

I learned about Carlin’s new never-to-be-captured-on-HBO routine in a wonderful interview piece by Jay Dixit for the Psychology Today blog done just nine days before Carlin’s death.

There it is, right at the end of the interview:

Dixit: So the last question is: What are you working on now?

Carlin: I have a piece of material that I’m doing on stage these days. I’m in Las Vegas now. I do weekends here, I do four nights on weekends as part of my year of touring. I go mostly to concert halls and theaters, around 80 or 90 of ’em a year. But I come down here around three or four. So I’m down here. This piece of material called, “There’s Too Much Fucking Music,” which is my way of looking at how much music there is, I guess. It’s just my way of looking at the world and saying something that people don’t notice and figuring out a new way. And it’s filled with exaggeration and stuff. I’m doing that on stage a little bit. I’m not giving myself any pressure.”

O Irony of ironies for amateurmusicians.net! Carlin’s “new routine” successfully captures a perspective I’ve long been trying to articulate through this blog, in a single sentence:

There’s just too much music goin’ around these days!

on training to be an artist a human

The Dixit interview is valuable for many reasons – not the least being its blessed good timing, days before Carlin’s death. For me though, it especially stands out as an example of the rich results you can get from a well-prepared Q&A, conducted with someone you truly admire.

Kinda like a good Playboy interview, minus the pompous titties.

The essential lessons I got from this Carlin interview:

  1. what his working methods were
  2. his concept of the comedian
  3. how method and mission inform one another

On Carlin’s concept of the comedian: a jester should always aim to be a court jester. A comedian should speak directly to power. A comedian should take risks. Reputation risks are therefore the holy grail of the comedian-cum-social-commentator.

With this in mind, we see that training to be a comedian is not simply a matter of coming up with good jokes. Rather, it’s about cultivating a point of view on the world, life, on absolutely everything, and doing so with courage. Thanks to Carlin therefore, I now understand that comedy is one of the many “genres” of human knowledge, one which leverages the “strategy of surprise” to teach important insights.

My own fave approach to obtaining insight is through cultivating paradox. In case you hadn’t already guessed.

So what did George Carlin do all these years, behind the scenes? He trained himself to be perceptive, as a life-long occupation. Indeed, the Dixit interview reveals that Carlin had a process for training his observational sense, a process he refined (and upgraded) over the course of his 50 years in the field of entertainment.

This attitude seems to me to be the psychological and spiritual key to the committed artist, whether amateur or professional. Without which you spend your life swimming in other people’s soundtracks.

where’s George?

All said and done, we certainly haven’t finished hearing from George Carlin. Therefore let this post be a message-in-a-bottle for all you Carlin fanatics out there: if you should ever come across a recorded version of the above-mentioned routine – text, audio, video – please forward me a copy! Or post it on Youtube!

With Carlin’s wise (and blunt) words, I suspect we’ll once again remember why we created the “off” button, and why we’re so afraid to use it.

Person George Carlin

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