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For more than ten years prior to his death in June 2008, George Carlin had been working on his autobiography with Tony Hendra, one of the original editors of National Lampoon magazine and author of the bestselling memoir Father Joe. When Carlin died, Hendra approached Carlin’s family about releasing the book. Based on hours of taped interviews, drafts, and polished chapters from their sessions, LAST WORDS is George Carlin’s life story as it has never been told before.
LAST WORDS is pure, unadulterated Carlin—full of the wit, charm, and mischievous insight that made him one of the most iconic and admired comedians of the past 50 years. The book is an irreverently funny, yet deeply honest, story about George’s life, from birth to his childhood in Manhattan to life on the stage. It is told as only Carlin could. Carlin has published three New York Times bestselling books, including When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops?, Brain Droppings, and Napalm and Silly Putty. LAST WORDS is a fitting addition to his long list of accomplishments.
Carlin is candid about both his career and his personal life throughout the book, addressing his 20-year tax battle with the IRS; a decades-long struggle with cocaine, marijuana, and alcohol; and his run-ins with the law. Carlin also writes intimately about his family life, stemming from his nonexistent relationship with his father, and the inevitable complications that led to with his mother. His 36-year marriage to first-wife, Brenda, is discussed with honesty and vulnerability, and his relationship with their daughter, Kelly, is threaded throughout the book, giving readers a glimpse into what George was like at home as both husband and father.
LAST WORDS also delves into Carlin’s work as a stand-up comedian, and his acting aspirations, in which he offers a frank account of his talent: “I was devastatingly inept! There were no Oscars in sight.” In the end, the book is a celebration about a boy from Harlem who knew how to make people laugh and forever changed the face of comedy in America and the world.
George… on politics:
I had a left-wing, humanitarian, secular humanist, liberal inclination on the one hand, which implied positions on myriad issues. On the other I had prejudices and angers and hatreds towards various classes of people. None of which included skin color or ethnicity or religion. Well—religion, yes. I used to get angry at blue-collar right-wingers but that passed because I saw that in the end they were just a different sort of victim.
The worst thing about groups are their values. Traditional values, American values, family values, shared values, OUR values. Just code for white middle-class prejudices and discrimination, justification for greed and hatred. I believe in giving everyone, as I encounter them, one at a time the full value of their dignity and their honor in the world. Whether I’m seen as a celebrity on an elevator or I’m just George the stranger, I open myself to them and I take them in and I give them everything I would want myself in terms of treatment, feeling and consideration. I call that a value.
…on being an individual:
It always seemed to me that the reasons groups came together were superficial. The group didn’t feed me and I had nothing to contribute to it. I had a deeper goal, this giant puzzle to work on, which was only going to happen if they left me alone… The aloneness of the stage makes groups irrelevant. Few things dramatize the face-off between loner and group more starkly than the artist before the audience. And there’s no irony here. If this loner can’t get the audience to act as a group—laugh together—he’s fucked.
George’s daughter, Kelly Carlin-McCall, and his brother, Patrick Carlin—both major figures in the book—are available for interviews and publicity for the book, in addition to co-author Tony Hendra.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Born in New York City in 1937, George Dennis Patrick Carlin was one of the greatest and most influential stand-up comedians of all time. He appeared on “The Tonight Show” more than 130 times, starred in an unprecedented 14 HBO Specials, hosted the first “Saturday Night Live” and penned three New York Times bestselling books. Of the 23 solo albums recorded by Mr. Carlin, 11 were Grammy nominated and he took home the coveted statue five times including a 2001 Grammy win for Best Spoken Comedy Album for his reading of his best seller Brain Droppings. In 2002, Carlin was awarded the “Freedom of Speech Award” by the First Amendment Center in cooperation with the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, Colorado, and he was the named 11th recipient of The Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for American Humor in June of 2008. George Carlin passed away at age 71 on June 22, 2008 in Santa Monica, California.
Tony Hendra was recently described by The Independent of London as “one of the most brilliant comic talents of the post-war period” He began his comedic career with Graham Chapman of Monty Python, appeared six times on the Ed Sullivan Show, was one of the original editors of National Lampoon, edited the classic parody Not The New York Times, starred in This Is Spinal Tap, and co-created and co-produced the long-running British satirical series Spitting Image for which he was nominated for a British Academy Award. He has written or edited dozens of books, most of them satirical, with the exception of two New York Times bestsellers: Brotherhood (2001) and Father Joe (2004). He is a senior member of the Board of the nation-wide story-telling community, The Moth.
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