March 3, 2008 / 9:18 AM / 11 years ago

Carlin fascinated by culture's self-destruction

George Carlin appears on stage during an 80th birthday salute to political satirist Mort Sahl featuring top name comedians in Los Angeles, California June 28, 2007. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - George Carlin is still packing venues with fans who crave his legendary brand of observational, cantankerous wit.

At 70, he isn’t just mailing it in, either. He performed about 80 shows across the country in 2007, and is still razor-sharp and very much on his game.

But with a record 14 live HBO stand-up comedy specials under his belt — most recently a Saturday outing dubbed “It’s Bad For Ya” — Carlin admits to having a different take on things now.

It’s not that he has exactly mellowed. Mellow isn’t in Carlin’s makeup. But no longer is he motivated to push the comedic envelope as a pioneer, as he did so memorably as a barrier-busting, hypocrisy-exposing rebel of the Las Vegas stage and the man who would become a Supreme Court test case via the famed “Seven Dirty Words” television furor in 1972.

Carlin is done trying to battle censorship and free-speech infringements that never seem to end. The vitriol against religion, the government and consumer crassness is somewhat muted by reflection and a certain resignation. He has a ready explanation for the change.

“I no longer see myself as a part of this species,” Carlin said in a recent telephone conversation. “To a large extent, I have dropped out for reasons of self-preservation. But I have to say it has been very freeing, allowing me to become fully engaged as an observer. I feel much happier about things now as a result. The divorce has resulted in personal growth. I believe it has also helped me to become better at my art.”

As such, Carlin no longer finds it either ironic or tragic that there seems to have been so little change in cultural mores since he ran afoul of the Federal Communications Commission.

“I accept it as someone looking in from the outside that the culture is destroying itself, and as someone who is no longer part of the human race, I can be fascinated by it rather than mourn it,” he says.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

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