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April 26, 2011

Book Review: Last Words by George Carlin and Tony Hendra (2009)

To learn about the life of what many consider to be the greatest stand-up comedian of all time is something that any comedian or comedy fan would drool for. George Carlin was a comedian to some, a prophet to others and the truth to me.When he was presented to me at the age of twelve, my world changed. My thinking was forever altered. No other person has ever effected me so greatly without knowing me personally. I wasn't sure what I was about to read, but I knew some of it could be rough. Truth be told, every entertainer is damaged in some way. Addiction, abuse, absent parents and self-esteem issues are all things that create the "look at me" gene. Carlin had all of these things, and his posthumous memoir shares every detail.

Buy Last Words Hardcover, Paperback, Audiobook or for Kindle

Many years ago, Carlin decided that he wanted to chronicle his life in a book. He wrote well over one hundred pages, and that only took him to age six. He enlisted the help of his friend Tony Hendra in his quest. It wasn't that Carlin couldn't write a book on his own. He wrote several. He needed Hendra to help him be concise. Over many years and many conversations, Hendra was able to piece together the most important and interesting parts of Carlin's life.

It's always tough to hear about a hero's struggles. The great thing about that is seeing how he got through it. Even in his late sixties, Carlin had to attend rehab for a wine and Vicodin addiction. The demons never stop chasing you. You just have to figure out a way to outrun them. Carlin touched upon many personal issues like rehab. He dealt with cocaine, professional failure and even abortion.

Carlin didn't start out as the honest comedian that left us a few years ago. He was silly and made up characters like the very famous Hippy Dippy Weatherman. He never lost his silliness, but it was pushed back a little by an urge to do something different. He was inspired by Lenny Bruce, who ended up being one of Carlin's few friends in comedy. Once on the brink of irrelevance and bankruptcy, Carlin had to reinvent himself to survive, and it changed everything.

His eventual goal was to perform a one man show about his life on Broadway, but that dream was prevented by his death in 2008. With the material he collected, and now the conclusion of the story, Tony Hendra felt that it was important to complete Carlin's memoir, and he did so with the most fitting title imaginable. Words were important to Carlin, and his were important to many. I'm just thankful that his Last Words are available to us all.

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