Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Post-Pomo New Wave Old School Man

If there is anything actually good about the passing of George Carlin last week it's that there is a lot of Carlin video and writing appearing everywhere in the mediascape. His language-art comedy routines are the embodiment of what in the 80s and 90s used to be coolly referred to as deconstruction. But just like the trendy waves of deconstruction and user-friendly and alpha-male have all gone by the wayside or are at least already embedded in the ongoing power grab of everything cool, I wonder if maybe embedding and/or inheriting these cool attributes comes more naturally to some as opposed to others. Are certain people more hardwired for "being cool"? Is it in their DNA? And while I am thinking about it: what does it mean to embody the cool persona?

For example, is Comrade Cool's inevitable march toward world domination all just a matter of time? Will Obama be the first truly Cool President? Is it all coming at us freshly packaged in the latest lingo-laden lifestyle design? How best to intelligently mock and deconstructively perform this always emergent "cool lifestyle design"? Carlin, already in his late 60s while delivering this bit on Modern Man, rips, mixes, and burns while putting it all into pitch-perfect perspective:

Carlin was able to manage his cool comportment over three generations of comedy life and has consequently influenced the most popular comedians of our time. You can see it in the truthiness of Colbert (as well as his Situationist Comedy) more than the at times "anti-comedy comedy" of a Steve Martin, but he's still in Martin too.

Carlin is in anyone living today who seriously performs, enjoys, or even studies comedy. His branded meme circulates like an internalized virus or predisposed genetic element clawing its way to the surface in hopes of breaking through the skin of hypocrisy so that it can then fill the air with its "motherload" of satirical venom and spawn free thinkers everywhere.

As Seinfeld said in his New York Times tribute to Carlin, "Dying is Hard. Comedy is Harder":
You could certainly say that George downright invented modern American stand-up comedy in many ways. Every comedian does a little George. I couldn’t even count the number of times I’ve been standing around with some comedians and someone talks about some idea for a joke and another comedian would say, "Carlin does it." I’ve heard it my whole career: "Carlin does it," "Carlin already did it," "Carlin did it eight years ago."
When I was writing my keynote for ELO on "Envisioning the Visionary," I slipped in a line from Carlin:
What does it take to be visionary?

It reminds me of something
I heard George Carlin recently say

He said
"I'm a visionary. I'm ahead of my time.
The only problem is I'm only
about one and half hours ahead."

Now if that doesn't encapsulate
what it means to be part of
a digital avant-garde
I don't know what does.
Even Professor VJ does a little George.

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