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Still Crazy After All These Years: Censorship in the 21st Century

Last Wednesday PBS aired the Mark Twain Prize in which my father, George Carlin, was posthumously honored for his life long work in Comedy.
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Last Wednesday PBS aired the Mark Twain Prize in which my father, George Carlin, was posthumously honored for his life long work in Comedy (if you didn't see it, it will be re-run in many markets the weekend of Feb. 13th).

The weekend we taped the show (November 9th) was just a few days after the election of Barack Obama, and being in Washington D.C. at that time was electric. Knowing that Bozo Bush and his cronies were really on the way out was quite surreal. But visiting the Lincoln Memorial and standing on the spot that Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous, "I Have a Dream" address was transporting. I felt as if I had been dropped into a new time and space continuum where the universe was more than just slightly bent toward justice - it had made a full face turn into righteousness. All of us starngers who stood on this monument kept looking around and at each other silently saying, "Wow, we did it. We really have a black president." I felt a bit like Dorothy -- maybe we weren't in Kansas anymore.

I thought a lot about my dad that day. Although he had not voted in over thirty years, I know that he would have been as gobsmacked as I was on some level. He had instilled in me a fierce longing for justice when it came to the plight of minorities and especially Black America. He grew up in a neighborhood just abutting Harlem in Manhattan, and he had been stewed and cooked in the black culture since he was a child, and this had deeply affected his sensitivity to prejudice and racism in America. If he had been alive, I know that he would have felt this sense of justice too.

But lest I get too comfortable in my new sense of the world, later that night, I saw something that showed me that we still have a long way baby. The night before the actual taping of the Mark Twain Prize, there is a fancy dinner where some Washington elites, the comedians booked to do the show, and (usually) the recipient and their family members assemble to hear a few of the comics and Kennedy Center dignitaries speak, watch a few clips from the honoree's career and eat a pretty decent catered meal. But as the evening unfolded, it became clear to me that something was a little off. First I noticed that the normally ribald Richard Belzer was being rather tame, and then when they got to a clip of my dad doing a routine from the mid-seventies, all of the shit and fucks were bleeped. We were at a private dinner honoring George Carlin, with about 150 ADULTS I might add, and his language was being deemed indecent. Wow, I thought, maybe we are still in Kansas.

Well, I did the only thing a self-respecting daughter of George Carlin could do: When it was my turn to go up and address the dinner guests (I went up last being that I was representing my father), the first sentence out of my mouth was, "It is obvious to me that something is missing from this event tonight, my fucking father." My family laughed, the comics and producers laughed and those few that had not lost all of their soul and humanity to the Bush administration, laughed too. I felt that I had turned the universe back a little in the right direction.

I sent out a little chain email to most of my address book last week. I share it with you here, in hopes of continuing to assist the universe in bending toward justice. My father is no longer here, just as Martin Luther King is no longer here, but they were both fighting, in their own ways, for a world of equality -- King for an equality of a people, my father for an equality of thought and language -- you need both for real justice.

Here it is:
In honor of The Mark Twain Prize honoring my father on Wednesday Feb. 4 on PBS, AND more importantly to point out the fact that the 7 Words You Can't Say on Television are still deemed indecent almost 40 years later and will be bleeped in said special tonight -- I am sending you the 7 WORDS that you will be missing tonight, and ask that you pass them on to 7 people today.

This chain letter will not bring untold riches or dreams coming true.
It might make some people laugh, and it might make others cry.
It could possibly get you in trouble (depending on who you send it to).
But most probably, it will just remind people of my dad, who was funny and a great teacher, and a way cool father.
Oh, yeah, and the hypocrisy of language that still exists.

So here they are:

Enjoy. Keep the Chain alive. Have a great day.
And watch the show if you get a chance. It is wonderful.

And so, enjoy the day, speak your mind, and continue the good fight.