New Music

George Carlin

Complaints and Grievances



George Carlin is an insult comic. Forget Jerry Seinfeld’s observational humor: Did you ever notice that they call it Ovaltine when the jar is round? Carlin doesn’t care. Like Leary and Miller, Carlin makes a buck lashing out at all the stupid people in the world. Unfortunately, in his aptly-named latest album, Complaints and Grievances, he steps a little off course.

Sept. 11 is partly to blame. As Carlin himself points out, you have to discuss the issues behind the tragedy, “Otherwise, the terrorists win!” Carlin does turn the situation to his advantage initially, taking a bite out of the U.S. government and big business (“Go out and buy some jewelry and a new car, otherwise the terrorists win.”) Afterwards, however, the Sept. 11 material degenerates into a series of fart jokes. Apparently Carlin feels that football fans fart so much they should qualify as biological weapons. It’s a little embarrassing.

The CD then moves from fart jokes to picking scabs. And some of this stuff works. As they say, he’s only vocalizing what we’re all thinking. Who doesn’t relate to the experience of picking toenails? But the whole thing smacks of a childish attempt to gross you out. The bit on lip crud was less than inspired.

Finally, Carlin comes home. Halfway through the CD, the complaints and grievances begin. It’s beautiful. Carlin goes off on the Religious Right, the N.R.A., genital mutilation, domestic violence and the consumer culture. He hates guys with stupid “sissy” names like Blake and Blair and Blaine and Brent. He hates environmentally conscious yuppies that separate their garbage and listen to Steely Dan. It’s all unprintable filth; my virgin ears are bleeding. Finally, George Carlin is an insult comic again.

—Benjamin D. Margo