George Carlin’s Guide to Life


The late, great comedian, actor, writer, ground-breaker, provocateur, and raconteur George Carlin would have turned 77 years old today, and while that’s not the kind of nice, round number that usually accompanies a tribute, it also doesn’t make a helluva lot of sense to play by the rules when it comes to Carlin. Over his nearly 50-year career, Carlin became one of our most astute political commentators and social critics — and, like the best stand-up comics, his material seldom (if ever) ages. So we’ve assembled some still-relevant words of wisdom from Carlin’s books and stand-up specials, in honor of the brilliant comedian and his truly one-of-a-kind voice.

On language: “Griddle cakes, pancakes, hot cakes, flapjacks: why are there four names for grilled batter and only one word for love?” ( Napalm & Silly Putty , 2002)

On airline announcements: “About this time, someone is telling you to get on the plane. ‘Get on the plane. Get on the plane.’ I say, ‘Fuck you, I’m getting in the plane! In the plane! Let Evel Knievel get on the plane! I’ll be in here with you folks in uniform! There seems to be less wind in here!'” ( Jammin’ in New York , 1992)

On the sexes: “Here’s all you have to know about men and women: women are crazy, men are stupid. And the main reason women are crazy is that men are stupid.” ( When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops , 2005)

On men: “Females create life, males end it. War, crime, and violence are primarily male franchises. Man shit. It’s nature’s supreme joke. Deep in the womb, men start out as the good thing, and wind up as the crappy thing. Not all men. Just enough. Just enough to fuck things up.” ( When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops , 2005)

On grooming: “I didn’t wash today. I wasn’t dirty. If I’m not dirty, I don’t wash. Some weeks I don’t have to shower at all. I just groom my three basic areas: teeth, hair, and asshole. And to save time, I use the same brush.” ( Brain Droppings , 1998)

On hygiene: “I never wash my hands after using a public restroom. Unless something gets on me. Otherwise, I figure I’m as clean as when I walked in. Besides, the sink is usually filthier than I am. I’m convinced that many of the men I see frantically washing up do not do the same thing at home. Americans are obsessed with appearances and have an unhealthy fixation on cleanliness. Relax, boys. It’s only your dick. If it’s so dirty that after handling it you need to wash your hands, you may as well just go ahead and scrub your dick while you’re at it. Tell the truth. Wouldn’t you like to see some guy trying to dry his genitals with one of those forced-air blowing machines that are mounted four feet off the ground?” ( Brain Droppings , 1998)

On alcohol: “I think the warning labels on alcoholic beverages are too bland. They should be more vivid. Here is one I would suggest: ‘Alcohol will turn you into the same asshole your father was.’” ( When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops , 2005)

On drugs: “Fuck the drug war. Dropping acid was a profound turning point for me, a seminal experience. I make no apologies for it. More people should do acid. It should be sold over the counter.” ( Last Words , 2010)

On education: “Once you leave out all the bullshit they teach you in school, life gets really simple.” ( Brain Droppings , 1998)

On children: “Something else I’m getting tired of is all this stupid bullshit we have to listen to all the time about children. That’s all you hear in this country. Children. Help the children. What about the children? Save the children. You know what I say? I say fuck the children. Fuck ’em. They are getting entirely too much attention. And I know what you’re thinking. You’re saying, Jesus he’s not going to attack children, is he? Yes he is. He’s going to attack children. And remember this is Mr. Conductor talking. I know what I’m talking about.” ( You Are All Diseased , 1999)

On religion: “I’ve begun worshipping the sun for a number of reasons. First of all, unlike some other gods I could mention, I can see the sun. It’s there for me every day. And the things it brings me are quite apparent all the time: heat, light, food, and a lovely day. There’s no mystery, no one asks for money, I don’t have to dress up, and there’s no boring pageantry. And interestingly enough, I have found that the prayers I offer to the sun and the prayers I formerly offered to ‘God’ are all answered at about the same 50% rate.” ( Brain Droppings , 1998)

On God: “I honestly believe, looking at these results, that if there is a God, it has to be a man. No woman could or would ever fuck things up like this.” ( You Are All Diseased , 1999)

On Catholics: “They’re against abortion and they’re against homosexuals. Well, who has less abortions than homosexuals?” (Back in Town, 1996)

On abortion: “Why is it that most of the people who are against abortion are people you wouldn’t want to fuck in the first place?” (Back in Town, 1996)

On class: “The upper class keeps all of the money, pays none of the taxes. The middle class pays all of the taxes, does all of the work. The poor are there just to scare the shit out of the middle class. Keep ’em showin’ up at those jobs.” ( Jammin’ in New York , 1992)

On America: “I don’t believe there’s any problem in this country, no matter how tough it is, that Americans, when they roll up their sleeves, can’t completely ignore.” ( Brain Droppings , 1998)

“What exactly is the free world, anyway? I guess it would depend on what you consider the non-free world. And I can’t find a clear definition of that, can you? Where is that? Russia? China? For chrissakes, Russia has a better Mafia than we do now, and China is pirating Lion King DVDs and selling dildos on the Internet. They sound pretty free to me. Here are some more jingoistic variations you need to be on the lookout for: ‘The greatest nation on Earth,’ ‘the greatest nation in the history of the world,’ and ‘the most powerful nation on the face of the Earth.’ That last one is usually thrown in just before we bomb a bunch of brown people. Which is every couple of years.” ( When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops , 2005)

On the South: “There’s also way too much religion in the South to be consistent with good mental health. Still, I love traveling down there, especially when I’m in the mood for a quick trip to the thirteenth century. I’m not someone who buys into all that ‘New South’ shit you hear; I judge a place by the number of lynchings they’ve had, overall.” ( Brain Droppings , 1998)

On civic responsibility: “Some people try to get out of jury duty by lying. You don’t have to lie. Tell the judge the truth. Tell him you’d make a terrific juror because you can spot guilty people just like that!” ( What Am I Doin’ in New Jersey , 1988)

On tragedy: “People can’t seem to get it through their heads that there is never any healing or closure. Ever. There is only a short pause before the next ‘horrifying’ event. People forget there is such a thing as memory, and that when a wound ‘heals’ it leaves a permanent scar that never goes away, but merely fades a little. What really ought to be said after one of these so-called tragedies is, ‘Let the scarring begin.’ ( When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops , 2005)

On laws: “And although I broke a lot of laws as a teenager, I straightened out immediately upon turning eighteen, when I realized the state had a legal right to execute me.” ( Brain Droppings , 1998)

On scandal: “I think one of the problems in this country is that too many people are screwing things up, committing crimes and then getting on with their lives. What is really needed for public officials who shame themselves is ritual suicide.” ( When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops , 2005)

On driving: “Have you ever noticed, when you’re driving, that anyone driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone driving faster than you is a maniac?” (Carlin on Campus, 1984)

On personal finance: “Here’s something I can do without: People ahead of me on the supermarket line who are paying for an inexpensive item by credit card or personal check. People! Take my word for this: Tic Tacs is not a major purchase. And, I get just as discouraged when a guy who’s buying a simple jar of spaghetti sauce tries to pay with a letter of credit from the Bank of Liechtenstein. Folks, carry some fuckin’ money around, will ya? It comes in handy! No one should be borrowing money from a bank at 18 percent interest to buy a loaf of bread.” ( Brain Droppings , 1998)

On e-mail: “The worst thing about e-mail is that you can’t interrupt the other person. You have to read the whole thing and then e-mail them back, pointing out all their mistakes and faulty assumptions. It’s frustrating and it’s time-consuming. God bless phone calls.” ( When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops , 2005)

On language: “People add words when they want things to sound more important than they really are. ‘Boarding process.’ Sounds important; it isn’t. It’s just a bunch of people getting on an airplane! People like to sound important. Weathermen on television talk about ‘shower activity.’ Sounds more important than ‘showers.’ I even heard one guy on CNN talk about a ‘rain event’. I swear to God, he said, ‘Louisiana is expecting a rain event.’ And I thought, ‘Holy shit, I hope I can get tickets to that!’ ( Jammin’ in New York , 1992)

On sayings: “Reminds me of something my grandfather used to say. He used to say, ‘I’m going upstairs and fuck your grandma.’ Well, he was just a really honest man, you know? He wasn’t going to bullshit a four-year-old.” (Carlin on Campus, 1984);

On role models: “If your kid needs a role model and you ain’t it, you’re both fucked.” ( Brain Droppings , 1998)

On self-esteem: “Most people with low self-esteem have earned it.” ( Napalm & Silly Putty , 2002)

“I’m not a person who thinks they can have it all, but I certainly feel that with a bit of effort and guile I should be able to have more than my fair share.” ( When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops , 2005)

On hope: “Don’t confuse me with those who cling to hope. I enjoy describing how things are, I have no interest in how they ‘ought to be.’ And I certainly have no interest in fixing them. I sincerely believe that if you think there’s a solution, you’re part of the problem. My motto: Fuck Hope!” ( Brain Droppings , 1998)

On politeness: “If you can’t say something nice about a person, go ahead.” ( When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops , 2005)

On rational thought: “Fuck rational thought.” ( Napalm & Silly Putty , 2002)

On individuality: “Avoid teams at all cost. Keep your circle small. Never join a group that has a name.” ( When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops , 2005)

“The decay and disintegration of this culture is astonishingly amusing if you are emotionally detached from it. I have always viewed it from a safe distance, knowing I don’t belong; it doesn’t include me, and it never has. No matter how you care to define it, I do not identify with the local group. Planet, species, race, nation, state, religion, party, union, club, association, neighborhood improvement committee; I have no interest in any of it. I love and treasure individuals as I meet them, I loathe and despise the groups they identify with and belong to.” ( Brain Droppings , 1998)

On our place in the universe: “If it’s true that our species is alone in the universe, then I’d have to say the universe aimed rather low and settled for very little.” ( Napalm & Silly Putty , 2002)

On life: “People who see life as anything more than pure entertainment are missing the point.” ( When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops , 2005)

“So, have a little fun. Soon enough you’ll be dead and burning in Hell with the rest of your family.” ( Brain Droppings , 1998)