A last hurrah for the legendary comedian
Honestly, I should have seen it coming though, since it felt like Carlin saw it coming. In reviewing the previous Carlin release, the positively-titled "Life is Worth Losing," what struck me was the bleak, depressing tone of his material, as he talked about death, suicide and the end of the world. I expressed the hope that he had another funny special in him and fortunately, he left the stage on a high note with his final special, a return to form for a legend.
It's not that he's talking about sunshine and rainbows, as the majority of the special is about getting old, death and the overall stupidity of the American public. But unlike last time, when it felt like Carlin was an angry prophet handing down brutal truths to the masses, here, his ruminations on the oddities and annoyances of our human existence have more of the bemused tone and impish glee that marked the performances of his prime. So when he talks about the power of crossing dead friends of your phone book or what your grandmother is doing in Hell, it'll make you laugh instead of cringe.
In some ways, this 70-minute show is a best-of for Carlin, as he does cover some similar ground from previous specials (but not repeating himself,) as he talks about how people overrate their children and steal their childhoods, the awful awkward conversations you get trapped in, and the odd religious traditions society accepts without questioning. The only negative I could even come up with is the way it ends, as the show peters out with a bit about what rights are. You'd expect Carlin to go out with a bang, not a whimper.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack is your usual stand-up comedy presentation, with clear strong voice from Carlin and appropriate applause and laughter from the audience. It's an evenly-distributed mix that does just the job it needs to.
While the interview is great, the second extra is the one that most intrigued me, an eight-minute clip of Carlin doing his act on "The Jackie Gleason Show," from January of 1969. It's not so much the material, which is OK, including a lengthy bit about what an FBI late-night show would be like, but it's seeing a young Carlin at work that's so interesting. Clean-cut, wearing a suit, looking like a businessman fresh on the job, he's almost unrecognizable, save for that deep, signature voice. It's unlike any Carlin performance I've seen, and while it's fascinating to watch, it's also sad, since this young man on the verge of greatness is now gone.
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