Fourteen years after George Carlin’s death, his stand-up material remains as vital and relevant as ever. And in a new two-part HBO documentary about his life, his comedy disciples explain why.
In the exclusive clip below from George Carlin’s American Dream, which premieres on HBO and HBO Max on Friday, Jon Stewart says that what he always found “amazing” about Carlin is “that he would treat farting with the same level of scrutiny and language and deconstruction as he would the Pope, the Catholic Church hierarchy, the war machine.”
As the filmmakers—Judd Apatow and Michael Bonfiglio—juxtapose two Carlin jokes about organized religion and flatulence, Stewart goes on to say, “As a kid, I didn’t understand that in any way,” before giving a literal chef’s kiss to the comedian’s close examination of the “side-cheek lift-up fart.”
When Apatow appeared on an episode of The Last Laugh podcast earlier this year, he told me that while “most comedians’ work ages out,” Carlin’s material somehow “gets better” with age.
“Everything that he was talking about in the ’90s up to 2007 applies to today,” he continued, highlighting Carlin’s dedication to speaking “very difficult truths” before that was de rigueur in stand-up comedy. But that doesn’t make the late comedian’s political views easy to categorize.
Quoting Carlin’s daughter, Kelly, who served as an executive producer on the film, Apatow added, “Whatever you think his opinion would be, you’re probably wrong. And what it would be would blow your mind.”
For more, listen to Judd Apatow on The Last Laugh podcast.