George Carlin

Take-Offs and Put-Ons

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George Carlin's debut comedy album captures him during the tail end of his period as a "straight" (i.e., short-haired) comedian (a period in which he also played a short-lived role on the series That Girl), and not that far from his subsequent counterculture emergence. Apart from the soap opera parody Doctor Place in the "Daytime Television" monologue, which seems slow and terribly dated, and "The Indian Sergeant" (which is in a category by itself), any part of this record could have fit onto his subsequent FM & AM. He rips apart television commercials, AM radio, hippies, rock music, and other media targets with the speed and spread pattern of a Gatling gun and the precision of a surgeon, and it's a statement about the nature of our popular culture that a lot of the humor here holds up better, 30 years on, than some of Carlin's more iconoclastic work of the 1970s -- some of the momentary lapses into gay stereotypes (i.e., Wendell the Witch) seem dated, though they were on target at the time (almost openly gay Paul Lynde was a fixture throughout the '60s and '70s on commercials and in series like Bewitched and The Hollywood Squares). "The Indian Sergeant" is an inspired variation on military humor that seems to be a direct offshoot of Carlin's stint in the army, and plays brilliantly in that spirit. Oddly enough, this routine has Carlin sounding a lot like his one-time partner Jack Burns, and all quite different from most of the rest of this record. Most of it is amazingly fresh, as entertaining as Carlin's best work from the '70s, and all of it is a lot more accessible, if not as challenging or groundbreaking.

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