In Franklyn Ajaye’s book “Comic Insights,” Ajaye interviewed probably 12-15 comedians who were prominent at the time of the book’s publishing. One theme that many of the comics repeated was that pretty much all modern stand up is derived from one of three guys – Pryor, Klein, and Carlin.
If I had to hitch my wagon to one of them, it would be George. I’m not saying my comedy is like his. Or that he was a huge influence on the way I think, although he probably was. I’m just saying that of the Holy Trinity, he was the one I found funniest.
When I was in elementary school, I remember watching Letterman and then doing stupid card tricks and skits in front of the class for show and tell. And I remember during the ’93 election getting on my knees and doing Dana Carvey’s Perot for my third grade teacher. But around ’96, I remember seeing one of his comedy specials and just losing it. He did a bit about air quotes that ended with him doing air quotes around his dick that stood out to me. It was the first time I saw anything that prominently featured the word “fuck” and was smart AND funny. That’s when I think I really started to appreciate what stand up comedy really was.
Then I got into his books. They were very funny, but also meaningful, too. They had a good balance of his material and his own world view – much like Chris Rock’s book. I didn’t agree with all this points, but you couldn’t argue with the presentation. The books were insightful and really funny. I still try to read each of them at least once a year.
My favorite thing about him was that he was presold to me as a comedy legend before I’d ever seen him, and he delivered. My first exposure to him wasn’t one of his old specials, it was him in his late ’50s and pretty much out of his prime. I can’t remember genuinely laughing harder at anything else I’ve seen. That’s got to say something about his ability. Everybody will quote him talking about “stuff” and the differences between baseball and football, but today I’ll look back fondly at him doing air quotes around his crotch.
If I could say anything to him, I’d say: thanks for backing up what everybody said about you, and thanks for never being full of shit.