WATCH: George Carlin, in 1990, Rails Against Comics Who Punch Down at Marginalized Groups
Recently, and especially since Saturday Night Live dismissed newly-hired castmember Shane Gillis for racially and culturally offensive jokes he had made on his podcast, the late comedy legend George Carlin has been held up by comedians and pundits alike as a comic who wouldn’t have been able to survive in today’s ‘woke’ culture of overt ‘political correctness.’
Beyond that, Carlin has also been appropriated by free speech reactionaries — along with other envelope-pushing comics of the past such as Richard Pryor and Lenny Bruce — as someone who would have railed against the current “cancel culture” if they were around, defending the right of all comics to be as outrageous and offensive as they want to be.
Carlin, however, had a much more nuanced take on this very topic nearly 30 years ago.
In a 1990 interview with Larry King that quickly went viral on Saturday, Carlin was asked about then-notorious bad boy comic Andrew Dice Clay, who hd prompted bans and boycotts over his extremely sexist and homophobic stand-up routine — an act at the time that made Clay massively popular with young (mostly white) males.
And Carlin’s response sounded as if he were describing the current moment we are living in.
Wow, this is from 1990. And I thought us “sensitive” folk didn’t understand the unfunny punching down jokes from these “comedians”. Interesting pic.twitter.com/2jU5Xj6pA3
— Aiah Samba (@Dualityman81) September 28, 2019
“I would defend to the death his right to do everything he does,” Carlin said. “The thing that I find unusual, and it’s not criticism so much, but his targets are underdogs. And comedy has traditionally picked on people in power, people who abuse their power.”
He continued: “Women and gays and immigrants are and kind of, to my way of thinking, underdogs. And he ought to be careful because he’s Jewish. And a lot of the people who want to pick on these kinds of groups — Jews are on that list.”
Adding that Dice Clay should be able to “do what he wants,” Carlin went on to say that the raunchy comedian got away with his jokes because his “core audience are young white males who are threatened by these groups.”
“A lot of these guys aren’t sure about their manhood because that’s a problem when you’re growing up,” Carlin stated. “And women who assert themselves, who are confident, are a threat to these men. And so are immigrants in terms of jobs.”
Carlin would conclude his point by observing that Clay’s audience laughs at his jokes because there’s a “certain sharing of anger and rage at these targets.”
If you want to watch more of Carlin’s interview with King, you check it out below: