By James Sullivan, Da Capo Press, $16.00, 280 pages
Few comics have done as much for the comedy scene as George Carlin. Seven Dirty Words is the biography of his life, from his birth to his death in 2008. It covers his early childhood, cheeky adolescence, disastrous military career and rise in radio, and every stage of his comedy career. He combined a heart of gold with a tongue of acid. He is the voice of his generation, and one of the harshest critics of religion and pop culture we have ever had as a country. He is the poet laureate of comedy, and his immortal bit on what one can say on television is one his defining moments.
As much license as Seven Dirty Words could have taken, it admirably takes a straight look at his life. It does not pull any punches, and does not look for scandals where there aren’t any. This isn’t to say that there weren’t any, just that Sullivan does a great job of keeping away from adding any prurient details. He acts as Carlin’s after-the-fact straight man, setting things up so that Carlin himself can deliver the punchline. This is one of the best biographies, and definitely worth a read.
Reviewed by Jamais Jochim