- Hardcover: 297 pages
- Publisher: Free Press (2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1439172951
- ISBN-13: 978-1439172957
- Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 1 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 322 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #178,294 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Last Words: A Memoir Hardcover – November 10, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
For more than a decade before his 2008 death, groundbreaking stand-up comedian Carlin had been working on his autobiography with writer Hendra (Father Joe), who finished it by distilling hours of conversations with the irascible social commentator. Armed with an eye for detail and a seemingly photographic memory, Carlin retraces his life in full, chronicling petty crimes and stolen kisses, escalating drug problems and the death of his wife with unflinching honesty. He applies that same precision to the mechanics of comedy, giving would-be comics a veteran's insight into the dynamics of crowds, the structure of a performance and the importance (or unimportance) of the social and political landscape. Tracing his evolution as a comedian from the first time he made his mother laugh to performing for an empty room in Baltimore to the series of HBO specials he made over the course of his career, Carlin peppers his narrative with the routines that have made him famous (though this is no gagfest, a la Brain Droppings, When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops?, etc.). Throughout, Carlin comes off as a smart, humble everyman with a strong distaste for hypocrisy in all its forms; fans may be surprised at his discipline and drive, and anyone interested in comedy should find this autobio as illuminating as it is funny.
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About the Author
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.
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Hendra completed the book after Carlin's death, and his deft hand finished things up wonderfully. George Carlin blazed a trail with a few other rare talents (Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, and Bill Hicks are among the only to come to mind). We were fortunate to have had Carlin walking among us as long as he did. We are also fortunate to have this amazing posthumous work. Kudos to George Carlin, and to Tony Hendra, and to George's daughter Kelly for all she does.
It is nice to read this book, written in a style that assures you that George wrote it. It is also a pleasant surprise to read that many of the life experiences George related about his past in various sketches were true. Such as growing up in a place called "Morningside Heights" and hanging around in a neighborhood called by it's slang name "White Harlem">
It is also shocking to know how many bad experiences George had throughout his life, including ones during his most successful years in comedy, that he kept hidden from his fans. He, of course, relates all these in the George Carlin no-nonsense way he has related everything else in his life.
With the wisdom George spout forth in his many comedy routines, it is a shame that 1) he died so early and 2) more people have not woken up and realized how smart he really was. Anyone who has followed George during their life will find this book extremely entertaining, insightful, shocking and funny (as George always was.)
Carlin is one of the funniest comedians and performers to ever live and even after 71 years, 23 albums and 13 HBO specials, it still feels like he was taken too soon. Carlin doesn't spare the details in the story of his life, from the father that left him, to his stormy marriage, drug dependancy or occasionally sacrificing of his own voice for the sake of getting a gig.
To a certain extent, his stories of drug use, bottoming out and the like could be attributed to any major celebrity of the seventies and eighties, it is his honesty that makes it amazing. While by the end of his life, he was completely clean and sober, he attributes acid with helping find his voice, going so far to say, "it should be sold over the counter."
He shows the evolution of his characters from Al Sleet to the angrier Carlin of the later career. Some observations, some characters, so just his own strange mind at work. He peels back the layers to show the genesis of his comedy and is honest with what did and didn't work.
He is also honest about his failings and his hypocrisy in life. The self awareness he had is particularly refreshing in light of some of his critics.
Best of all though, its one final chance to hear Carlin in his own voice for one last time. He doesn't disappoint. While it isn't a comedy book, there are a lot of laughs to be had. If you are a fan, you won't be disappointed.