The world suffered a great loss this year when George Carlin passed away, and not simply because he was an entertainer that many enjoyed listening to. George wasn't just a comedian, he was the real deal. He didn't just string together a bunch of jokes in an effort to make the audience chuckle. That was part of it, sure, but he was more concerned about being able to convey major thoughts and ideas, while presenting them in a way that sounded funny. If you've listened to Carlin over the years, you know what I'm talking about. You can sit down and watch anything he's done from the 90's on, and you feel like you're listening to a lecturer, or maybe even a philosopher. The blatant ironies you may have never noticed in the world around you was what provided all the laughs, George merely pointed them out.
With the latter half of 2008 providing an avalanche of political blunders that are sure to affect us for years to come, it's hard to imagine a world where we'll no longer hear Carlin's take on such things. George Carlin - It's Bad For Ya is the last live HBO performance before his passing, and is the first Carlin performance available on Blu-ray. As always, George provides laughter, and often invokes thought. This is not a performance you'll want to miss.
If you ever listened to Michael Savage, you might be familiar with the term 'psychological nudity'. That's the best way to describe what Carlin brings to the table. He's more than willing to attack everything in a manner that's not politically correct. It doesn't matter if the issue is religion, our country, family, or even taking a certain glee in watching the world tear itself apart. It's Bad For Ya doesn't disappoint in its arsenal of diversified topics.
George doesn't discriminate, and that's clear right from the beginning of the show. He starts off talking about what it's like to be 70 years old, or as he likes to refer to himself, an old f@%&! He goes on about how he can get anyone to do anything for him simply because he's old, how he can get out of family events by claiming he's tired, and he even toys with the idea of crapping in his pants to make others feel uncomfortable!
It's all just an opening segway to getting to the first real topic of the hour though, which is death. I know it sounds morbid, but Carlin prides himself on always pushing the envelope for a laugh. He's a man who believes you can joke about anything as long as the context works. The topic of death opens up a whirlwind of things that we may hear in our lives whenever someone passes, and why they make no sense. From there, George moves along to discuss life after death, religion, and why it's all made up.
Next up on the agenda is the unhealthy amount of 'child worship' that takes place in the United States. It sounds like Carlin is being a radical, but the man has some great points. Kids no longer have to worry about 'losing' when everyone is seemingly a winner. Dead last, forget that! You're the last winner in today's society! Whenever a kid gets a minor boo boo, the school gets sued and more of what childhood should be about gets taken away. Carlin further elaborates this idea into how our entire country works; explaining how 'rights' are nothing more than a cute idea, as the government has the ability to take our 'rights' away whenever they want. Those, Carlin explains, are a set of temporary privileges, not rights.
There's much more on his agenda he discusses in order to make more people see the light, but I don't want to ruin the entire show for you. George Carlin does what he always does in this performance. He takes things that are the norm from our everyday lives, and he debates them in a comical manner.
There are some people that think he's nothing more than a foul mouthed comedian that has nothing to offer, and it's my opinion that those who share that opinion haven't really listened to the context of what George has been saying for so many years. He's a smart guy, and as someone who actually had the opportunity to meet the man briefly, he comes off as an intellectual that's completely focused on his work. Even if you don't agree with him, it's hard to refuse the man of his beliefs, as he explains his feelings with great detail. Believe what he's saying or not, you're going to laugh because he relates to you about things from your daily life, and more importantly, the man is going to leave you thinking well after your done watching this performance.
For a stand-up comedy act, the picture here is wonderful. It looks better on Blu-ray than I remembered it looking as it was broadcast on HBO in HD. Being the first Blu-ray release for Carlin, as well as his last mainstream performance of all time, the picture quality is more than fitting.
The skin tones from Carlin on stage are terrific, and although he's older and sort of pale looking, the intense lighting on him never causes an issue with blooming. There doesn't appear to be any edge enhancement added for an overly sharpened effect, either.
In fact, there's a great sense of depth and dimensionality for this Blu-ray release. The image never looks too sharp at all, it looks incredibly natural. Great black levels and contrast go a long way to continue the look of depth, and I can imagine this could have been tricky. Carlin is wearing a long sleeved top that's black, as well as his pants. The levels are so spot on, you can always see which way his clothes are folded or bent as he's moving around on stage, and in close-up shots, you can even see tiny fuzzies on his shirt.
There doesn't appear to be really any macro-blocking due to his getup either. Once in a great while it seems to show up, but I was really, really looking for it. Watching this Blu-ray as just a casual viewer, it's nothing that you would notice at all. All in all, this was a very appropriate transfer for this release. Carlin deserves this.
This picture was encoded with VC-1 at 1080p, in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1.
Unfortunately, the audio track wasn't given the most admirable treatment in the world. It's a lossless track, but it's a 2 channel lossless PCM track. I guess you don't really need anything other than that, as it sounds fine and dandy for a stand-up act. George doesn't have a high voice that's going to drive your speakers to crackles or distortion, and his voice isn't low enough to wreak havoc on the low end of things. It's a little disappointing that we don't get to hear the audience in surround sound, especially since the beginning of the show has 'Dolby Surround' slapped onto it, presumably from when it aired on television, so I have to wonder what gives here.
There are a couple of spiffy special features here, and both are a pleasure to watch :
Too Hip for the Room - This is a half an hour in length, and basically serves as the highlight reel from a 3 hour interview that was conducted by the Archive of American Television. This is the best extra one could have asked for, for both Carlin fan and hater alike. If you loved the man's work, you get a half an hour explanation from the man himself of where all of his thoughts and ideas come from. If you hated the man and were ignorant to how much of an intellect he actually was, you're going to find yourself very surprised at how well thought out this man is even in life.
Carlin on The Jackie Gleason Show - Not as long as the prior feature mentioned, but it's a show stand-up skit that Carlin did on Gleason's infamous show back in 1969! It seemed like typical stuff that we would expect from Carlin, although a bit watered down from what we're used to. But being that this material was from 1969, I don't think it's a far stretch to assume that some of the material being performed here was risqué then as well.
That's really all there is. It's not a lot, and I wish there was more. After all, this was the last performance from the great George Carlin. At least these features were very relevant, and not just filler material.
Even at the ripe ole' age of 70, George Carlin never lost his touch. It's Bad For Ya proves that. No topic is left unturned, not even when it came to discussing things that were close to him at the time, such as old age and death. The back of the Blu-ray case has a wonderful quote from Carlin that describes a good portion of the content you'll find in his performance :
"I think it is the duty of the comedian to find out where the line is drawn and cross it deliberately."
And although Carlin constantly crosses that line, it's never in bad taste, and it's never just for the sake of doing so. Everything is well thought out, and presented in a way that's undeniably funny, taboo or not. If you're looking for some laughs Carlin fan or not, you're not going to go wrong with this Blu-ray. It pains me since this is a great performance from a great man, but I can't give more than a recommended rating for this release. The picture quality is great, the audio is adequate since nothing fancy is required, but it could have been better, and the extras aren't there in quantity but they sure are in quality. It makes for a subpar release overall, but if you're a Carlin fan, you'll want to pick this up, regardless.