In 10 Words or Less
From 2001, George Carlin's first post-9/11 show
Never say that George Carlin doesn't care about people. When working out this set before this special, the name wasn't "Complaints and Grievances." Instead, it was "I Kinda Like It When a Lotta People Die." Then, a little more than two months before he was to take the stage, the attacks of 9/11 occurred. Being a New York City guy, Carlin knew people still needed to laugh, but he knew people had their limits as well, so the title changed. The new title is much more fitting, as that's exactly what this show is. This is Carlin getting things off his chest and exposing what it is in life that pisses him off.
Broadcast live from the Beacon Theater in New York in November of 2001, Carlin's 12th HBO special gets the 9/11 stuff out of the way early, and then gets into the meat of his material. Though he's dropped most of the manic physicality of his earlier routines, his act is still filled with energy and the voices that really sell his jokes. His trademark riffs on driving and stupid language are still here, along with his philosophical musings, which give his shows a depth you don't see in many comedians.
Oddly, there are some jokes here which are repeated from previous shows, which I felt was a real disappointment. For such an original comic, for him to crib from his own act feels like the act of a lazy performer. Carlin looks older here than he did in two years earlier, and more tired than he does today. Perhaps, as a city boy, 9/11 had taken some sort of toll on him. The show is peppered with references to the metro area, as he plays to the crowd. But no matter how city-centric he gets, the comedy is truly universal.
The bulk of this show is made up of his extensive list of people who ought to be killed, including parents of honor students, rednecks and rich guys in hot air balloons. It's hard to argue with his position on some of these people. In particular, his hatred of people named "Todd" and his ilk resonated loudly with me. And to wrap things up, he edits down the ten commandments of the Bible. This is more philosophical than comedic, as is his style at the end of his shows, but you'll still get some laughs. It's amazing that after 26 years, Carlin's still relevant in popular comedy. It really speaks to the universal nature of his jokes and how stupidity annoys most everyone.
On one DVD you get Carlin's 55-minute set, which comes with static, full-screen menus. On these menus are scene selections and the option to have English subtitles. There is an insert with chapter titles and the 2004 MPI catalog.
The full-screen video, taken directly from the HBO feed (complete with the anachronistic "Live from New York City" graphic and HBO corner bug), looks great, with vibrant colors on the stage's background, proper skintones on Carlin himself and deep, dark blacks. Considering how little is on this disc, it's surprising that the show was encoded at an average of 6Mbps. The audio, encoded at 192Kbps, is in Dolby Digital 2.0, which does the job nicely, reproducing Carlin faithfully. The mix is good, with the audience never overpowering the comedian.
Sadly, not a one.
The Bottom Line
George Carlin hasn't been very active on the national comedy scene of late, instead turning his attention to working in Kevin Smith's films. So when a Carlin show is released, it's like manna to the masses. "Complaints and Grievances" isn't vintage Carlin, but even the worst Carlin (which this is not) is better than 90-percent of what's out there. Until he takes the stage for his 13th HBO special, this show is the best way to pass the time.