Sometimes a Little Brain Damage Can Help (1984)
Running Press Book Publishers
I never even knew that this book existed until one day when I saw it listed on Wikipedia. I had always assumed that Brain Droppings (1997) was his first book. It didn’t help of course that interviewers, press releases, and I think even Carlin himself referred to Brain Droppings as his “first” book. In any case, once I first learned of Sometimes a Little Brain Damage Can Help, I immediately looked up and bought a used copy through good ol’ Amazon.com.
In Carlin’s 2007 interview for XM’s “Unmasked”, he described Sometimes a Little Brain Damage Can Help by saying:
“It was actually a magazine-sized item to be sold at concerts. I wanted to put out some material in there, so I threw pictures in too because you have to have pictures in it. It’s kind of a pseudo-book. Kinda quasi-book.”
As Carlin’s description implies, this book isn’t really in the style of his later books, in several different ways. Rather, it’s a 9x12” book with about 38 pages, in color. So physically it’s rather like a tour book you’d get at a rock concert. A lot of the material here showed up on earlier and later releases, including a few routines that finally made it to When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops? (2004), and even at least one line that showed up in It’s Bad for Ya (2008) (about God having a three-day weekend). That’s what surprised me the most about this book: that so many of these thoughts from his later years had already been in his head since at least 1984.
The phrase itself “Sometimes a Little Brain Damage Can Help” was later used on the backs of some George Carlin t-shirts he’d sell at the shows. It also shows up in Brain Droppings (1997), sometimes acting as a subtitle of sorts.
Since I couldn’t find much of any other information on the book, and was curious myself as to which material had or hadn’t shown up elsewhere, I’ve taken the time to write a page-by-page description of what’s inside:
Front cover. As mentioned in the credits, the photo was taken by Kelly Carlin, George’s daughter.
Inside cover: credits, acknowledgments, and table of contents. The latter two are comedy pieces.
p1-2: a translucent page with a dedication and quotation.
p3: Full-page black & white photo of George as a boy, similar to the one on the cover of A Place for My Stuff (1981)
p4: “Tonight’s Program”
p5: “Miscellaneous Bullshit”. This page is very similar to the “Short Takes” you find in his later books. In fact, many of these lines did show up in his later books as those “Short Takes” (e.g., “Try explaining Hitler to a kid”).
p6: “The World Hostility Scoreboard”. Similar to the list he gave in the “New News” track from An Evening with Wally Londo Featuring Bill Slaszo (1975).
p7: “Miscellaneous Hassles”, continuing the last list and including a few crude drawings of bombings. These may have been done by George himself; he’s partially credited for the illustrations on the inside cover.
p8-9: List of diseases and illnesses, much like the list later found in Napalm & Silly Putty (2001)
p13: “In The Future”, an earlier version of a piece that wound up in When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops? (2004)
p14: Some short pieces called “The American Busine$$Man’s Credo”, “A Short Story”, “A Generic Joke”, and “Class Act”, some of which I remember reading in his later books. Also a written version (with additions) of “It’s No Bullshit!”
p15: “Celebrity Predictions”. An updated take on this theme appeared later in the bonus material of 3 x Carlin: An Orgy of George (2006).
p16-17: A beautiful 2-page spread of “An Incomplete List of Impolite Words”, with however many were recorded by that time.
p18: An earlier version of “People I Can Do Without” from What Am I Doing In New Jersey? (1988)
p19: An earlier version of “Finish Your Sentences”, which later showed up in When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops? (2004)
p20: “A Salute To Some Of The Famous Bands That Have Previously Appeared On Tour With George Carlin”. An earlier version of the fictitious band list that appears in Napalm & Silly Putty (2001)
p21: “The Ten Most Embarrassing Songs of All Time” (as listed in Napalm & Silly Putty (2001), but with a bonus song), three poems, and two letters
p22: An earlier version of “Things You Never See”
p23: “Tumors & Food” and “Tumors & Sports”. These are earlier versions of “Tumor Humor: Guys, Gals & Cancer” from When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops? (2004)
p24: An earlier version of “The Continuing Story of Mary & Joseph”, which later appeared in When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops? (2004)
p25: “Number Fun”, which I can’t find in any of his later books.
p26: Three short pieces called “Wrinkles”, “Idea Flow”, and “Nice Body, No Mind”. The second of these showed up years later in the bonus material of 3 x Carlin: An Orgy of George (2006).
p27: “The Science Page”. Some science news and facts, some which showed up in his later books.
p28: “Advertisements”. Includes such places as “The Scarf & Barf”, “Cafe Vagina”, etc., some of which made it into his other routines.
p29: “The Baby”, a dialog piece I haven’t seen him do elsewhere.
p30: A photo of Carlin being arrested in Milwaukee, being escorted by the police. Overlaying it is the criminal report, dated 7-21-72 for “Disorderly Conduct”
p31: “More Bullshit”. Some of these show up in his later books as “Short Takes”.
p32-33: “News From All Around”. Various news headlines, some of which showed up on his past albums.
p34: An earlier version of the hilarious “Letter to a Friend” from When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops? (2004). Also a few “Left-over Sentences”.
p35-36: A translucent page with a smaller image of George as a boy, like the one near the front of the book.
p37: A charity letter for “The Fund For The Rich and Powerful”
Back cover: a young photo of George with a made-up blurb about being “National Tie Champion, 1950”.