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‘George Carlin’s American Dream’ review: A perceptive look at a comedy legend

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Certainly, Carlin’s granular dissection of US politics continues to be broadly quoted immediately, and the who’s who of comedians who weigh in on his legacy replicate how his affect has echoed nicely past his demise in 2008.

“I needed to be identical to him, getting each phrase in the best spot,” Jerry Seinfeld says. “As a result of when he did it, it thrilled me.”

Assembled with a stage of ambition worthy of Carlin’s verbal dexterity, administrators Judd Apatow (who not way back produced the same ode to Garry Shandling) and Michael Bonfiglio have endeavored to contextualize the comedian’s work via key occasions that framed these years, starting with the clean-cut Carlin of the ’60s who rebelled towards Vietnam and assassinations earlier than rising his hair and putting an anti-establishment tone.

Initially impressed by comedian actors like Danny Kaye, Carlin, within the intensive interviews with him woven into the 4 hours, says, “I solely knew that I cherished standing up in entrance of individuals and having their consideration,” having grown up raised by a single mom with out figuring out his abusive father.

Influenced by Lenny Bruce, who additionally championed his early profession, Carlin made the compulsory compromises (it is unusual to see him and Richard Pryor collaborating in sketches on hokey selection reveals) earlier than flexing his comedic muscle tissues, freely rattling off the “filthy words” that gained legions of younger followers whereas placing his proper to say them in entrance of the Supreme Courtroom.

Made with appreciable enter from Carlin’s daughter, Kelly, “American Dream” can also be a love story, recounting his whirlwind romance with spouse Brenda, their respective struggles with medication and alcohol, the ache he skilled in shedding her to most cancers and his second marriage after her demise.

As Stephen Colbert notes, Carlin was in lots of respects the Beatles of comedy. After producing a string of bestselling albums within the ’70s, he was deemed more and more irrelevant as that decade got here to an in depth, earlier than reintroducing himself, but once more, partly via the comparatively nascent format of HBO standup specials.

Carlin additionally acknowledged shifts within the comedic tides, responding to a standup flamethrower like Sam Kinison and evolving his act in ways in which grew darker and extra pessimistic concerning the prospects for humanity within the twilight of his profession and life.

Merely as an act of curation, among the clips are fairly spectacular, akin to seeing Carlin with John Lennon and Yoko Ono on “The Mike Douglas Present,” cracking up Dinah Shore, or the gamut of his appearances on “The Tonight Present” via the years.

As famous, Carlin’s mastery of the standup craft has resonated throughout a long time, and continues to take action as information occasions immediate admirers to cite and recirculate his previous routines. “”I nonetheless consult with him on a regular basis,” Jon Stewart says.

Whereas the title is meant to be barely ironic, in that sense, Carlin’s “American Dream” marches on.

“George Carlin’s American Dream” will air Could 20-21 at 8 p.m. ET on HBO, which, like CNN, is a unit of Warner Bros. Discovery.