The Genius of George Carlin

Most of those who inspire me have nothing to do with marketing. I never wanted to be a communicator because David Ogilvy kicked my ass into gear. No executive at Edelman has ever compelled me to write a press release.

That being said, I owe a lot to those who do inspire me. It’s a long list. For all different sorts of reasons, these are the people that inspire me as a communicator: Tucker Max, Tom Delonge, Ryan Holiday, Ernest Hemingway, Bob Lefsetz, Matt Stone & Trey Parker, my Uncle Danny, Tupac Shakur, Quentin Tarintino, Brad Pitt, Chuck Palahniuk, John F. Kennedy, and of course, the great George Carlin.

If I had to claim one figure as the one that inspired me to go into strategic communications, it would be George Carlin.

Of course, this is ironic. Carlin hated marketing and consumerism and spoke out often on these themes:

George Carlin was a cynical bastard. He perfected black humor and satire. But, most importantly, he was honest. His communication was authentic, and everybody felt it. In his own words: “If honesty were suddenly introduced into American life, the whole system would collapse.”

Carlin also taught me about words. His endless rants on euphemisms taught me more about writing and the English language than any class I will ever take.

I think the greatest lesson George Carlin’s comedy taught me was something Robert Greene professes: to Enter Action With Boldness.

This is the guy that literally defined which words weren’t allowed on television by listing them on television preceding the court case. Constantly pushing the envelope led to Carlin’s best material, and it is the reason that virtually every popular comedian today will list him as an inspiration. One my favorite bits of all time features Carlin railing against American’s incessant fears:

In his own words: “Comedy is filled with surprise, so when I cross a line, I like to find out where the line might be and then cross it deliberately, and then make the audience happy about crossing the line with me.”


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