Top positive review
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The Title Says It All
on August 1, 2001
Regardless of which Carlin camp you happen to fall into - the love it, hate it, or ambivalent to it camps - there's a little something for everyone in his first book of comedy, Brain Droppings. Those familiar with George's stand-up material probably won't be surprised by what lies between these pages, but for the rest of the world, a little explanation might be necessary.
Carlin is, first and foremost, a linguist, like many comedians (Steve Martin being another notable example). Delightful comedy springs from mastering language, and Carlin wields his Promethean tongue like a nuclear bomb, sparing absolutely nothing. Is he coarse, hateful, and full of venom? Yes. By using words not like swords but an executioner's axe, Carlin dismembers ideas and meanings about politics, religion, history, pop culture, sports, and English itself. His reasoning, it seems, is to throw the reader or listener so far from common meaning that the person is forced to invent - or at least reconsider - beliefs.
Brain Droppings contains many such aphoristic nukes. Some are a few words long, others continue for a few pages. There are some classics from his stand-up in here, notably "Football and Baseball" and "A Place for my Stuff." Unfortunately, this book really does seem like a collection of brain droppings - things that just kind of fell out of Carlin's mind. Good or bad, there they are. If this book has a weak point, it's that it wasn't edited very well, and some of the things in here are just plain silly and dumb. From a man who is so obviously intelligent and humorous, I expected more at times.
Overall, though, does it work? The nuke-'em-silly technique is certainly open to debate. Will people get it? Sometimes. Remember, for every person that got Archie Bunker's satirical character, there were two that thought he represented a true American, and five that couldn't stomach listening to him at all. People will find the same thing in these pages. It's certainly worth a read; if you don't like it, one of your friends definitely will.