George Carlin: Life Is Worth Losing (2005)

TV Special  -   -  Comedy
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George Carlin continues making people laugh with his 13th HBO stand-up special.

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George Carlin continues making people laugh with his 13th HBO stand-up special.

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Some look at life on the bright side. He prefers the grave side.

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Comedy

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5 November 2005 (USA)  »

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George Carlin: I Like it When a Lot of People Die  »

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Broadcast live on HBO on 5 November 2005. See more »

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George Carlin: [George discussing suicide] That's it, I'm hanging myself and Wal-Mart's paying for it!
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in the realm of Carlin's career, it's not one of his very best...it's a change of pace
5 November 2005 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I don't know what it was, maybe it was going through some of his own trials and tribulations (addiction and rehab), but George Carlin seems to be, well, different this time around. In a way I should've expected this- I remember reading a couple of years back when he was planning the special that it would be more based around language (if nothing else he is the single greatest linguist in the history of post-modern stand-up), and on that level the special isn't a disappointment. There are three things, however, that make the film not necessarily bad or over-wrought, but just, well, different, like a musician or band we all know through and through trying a little something new. This time, with Life is Worth Losing, there is a lot more philosophy in some ways, and also a little bit of loss in some of the timing for a few good laughs.

The first thing is that his delivery is a little different; usually it'll seem like he'll go for his three topics (the little things in life 'Seinfeld' style, words and expressions, and the "big" world), but much of the special this time is with a delivery that doesn't (at least some of the time, maybe not for the most part maybe so) have that much of the same strange skepticism. The second thing is that he changes the structure around one base topic, suicide, and one wonders if this will be for the entire length or if there will be a switch to another topic or not. There's variations on the theme, sometimes it spreads out into the gripes of America, and it's always fascinating, but maybe not as hilarious as one might expect (sometimes it's more like ironic musings than full-our jokes). The third thing is that at times he is so into giving a lyrical, sometimes even poetic kind of rhythm to his bits and terms in his linguist way (the first five minutes of the special a great warm-up, is a keeper) that might throw people off. In a way he is even angrier than he was in what I think is one of his very best specials, You Are All Diseased, because this time his anger is loaded at present day subjects which are, quite frankly, infuriating.

As some might come to think, I might be saying all this to shadow over thinking that the special just wasn't as funny as his best stuff. It's not necessarily that. At times I was in the same practically non-stop laughs at a few minutes a clip. As a Carlin fan all these rants that end up not leading to the same kinds of routines and such is in a way refreshing even as it is a little odd. At times I almost wondered if he was returning to a little of the spirit of his act back in the 70's mixed with his now usual brand of old-man brilliant wit and observance of all things in the world. He even seems to be going past just plain old cynicism. There is so much truth in the special at times it's kind of staggering. And to see that in such abundance and forming out into such tangents reminds me why I keep coming back to his best stuff. I'm just not sure after seeing this right off the bat that it's him at his total best, it's almost as if he's in a transition now into a totally new part of his career. Still, it's worth it to hear some of his classic takes of end of the world scenarios, the 'fat' situation in the US, and things involving suicide TV. And those last fifteen minutes are very poignant.


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