George Carlin’s Creative Process


(By Randy Lane) Judd Apatow’s documentary, George Carlin’s American Dream, impeccably demonstrates the three-step process for becoming a successful media personality. The film illuminates Carlin’s development of contentcharacter, and execution.

Carlin’s early career was more mainstream with character bits like The Hippy Dippy Weatherman. In the documentary, W. Kamau Bell points out that Carlin was searching for his comedic voice. About finding his voice, Carlin said, “I was missing who I was. The person I was onstage was not the same person I was offstage.

He ditched the suit, grew a beard, and long hair and became a voice for the counterculture. He maintained that voice throughout his career.

  • Being your authentic self and staying true to your character is the way to connect on an emotional level with the audience.
  • The RLC Character Definition process helps talent discover their voice and how to express it across all media platforms.

Carlin’s love of language led him to be an amazing wordsmith. He skillfully took wordplay to a higher level. In one of his bits, he noted that the birth control pill didn’t have a catchy name. He quipped, “How about inconceivable or mom bomb?”

The king of observational comedy, Jerry Seinfeld noted that Carlin took observational comedy to a higher level saying, “It was more the elevation of the ordinary.”

George Carlin said, “Out of 400,000 words in the English language there are only seven you can’t say on television.” He had such a cultural impact with his 7 Dirty Words bit, it went to the FCC and all the way to the Supreme Court.

  • If you’re an edgy personality, take a tip from Carlin and balance the edge with whimsical fun.
  • If you are aging out of the demo or even approaching retirement age, consider how Carlin managed it. In the 80’s, the media declared him as obsolete. His response was to create entertaining topical and relevant content that restored his popularity into the 2000’s.

Although Carlin appeared to be spontaneously riffing, he was a relentless planner. He kept meticulous notes, continually editing, refining, and rehearsing stories and bits.

All of this preparation enabled Carlin to execute his performance in a seemingly improvised way. Mark Twain said it best: “It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.”

  • Precise planning is the key to memorable and captivating content.
  • Carlin was also comfortable with silence. Silence invites the audience lean in and  it highlights your viewpoints.

Watch what many of today’s top comics including Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld and Stephen Colbert have to say about the genius of George Carlin


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