George Carlin is widely regarded as one of the most influential stand-up comedians of all time, but that’s not to say his humor was to everyone’s taste. His typically black comedy covered plenty of taboo topics, and he never held back when tackling subjects such as religion, politics, and American society.
For Carlin, nothing was out of bounds. “I think it's the duty of the comedian,” he once said, “to find out where the line is drawn and cross it deliberately.” His language wasn’t exactly family friendly, either: He famously ranted about the “seven words you can never say on television” (using all seven quite liberally) in a routine that led to a Supreme Court ruling regarding FCC censorship.
There’s no denying that Carlin was funny, but he was also intelligent. Whether acerbic, silly, or dark, his humor was often insightful. He challenged his audiences to think about life, love, society, aging, and many other themes in new ways.
Here are 20 of the best George Carlin quotes from a career that spanned more than half a century.
“Frisbeetarianism” is the belief that when you die, your soul goes up on the roof and gets stuck.
Another nice thing about getting old is you can leave any social event early just by saying you’re tired … “Oh, you’re tired? Come on, Grandpa’s tired, Grandpa’s going to bed.” And someone else says, “But it's 7:30 in the morning!”
Tonight's forecast: dark. Continued dark tonight, turning to partly light in the morning.
It’s been on my mind for some time, but I’ve never said it publicly. So here goes: “Vo-do-de-o-do and a scoddie-woddie doo-dah day.” Thank you.
Isn't it a bit unnerving that doctors call what they do “practice”?
Dusting is a good example of the futility of trying to put things right. As soon as you dust, the fact of your next dusting has already been established.
Children can't be our future, because by the time the future arrives, they won't be children anymore.
I don’t have to tell you it goes without saying there are some things better left unsaid. I think that speaks for itself. The less said about it the better.
Have you ever noticed when you’re driving that anyone who’s driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone driving faster than you is a maniac?
I decided to look around for something else to worship, something I could really count on, and immediately, I thought of the sun. Happened like that: Overnight, I became a sun-worshipper. Well, not overnight, you can't see the sun at night — but first thing the next morning.
I have as much authority as the pope, I just don’t have as many people who believe it.
Have you ever noticed that you never get laid on Thanksgiving? I think it's because all the coats are on the bed.
If crime fighters fight crime and firefighters fight fire, what do freedom fighters fight?
The Centers for Disease Control has determined that the common cold is caused by a tall man who carries around a bag of germs.
I buy stamps by mail. It works OK until I run out of stamps.
Some people like to watch “monster trucks” drive on top of cars and crush them. Then there are the other people who can’t get to the arena, because they don’t have cars.
Just when I discovered the meaning of life, they changed it.
When they print the years of someone’s birth and death, can you resist figuring out how old they were?
If a group of people stand around in a circle long enough, eventually they will begin to dance.
Don't sweat the petty things and don't pet the sweaty things.
Featured image credit: Kai Mort Shuman/ Michael Ochs Archive via Getty Images