On Location: George Carlin at USC (1977)
Also called “An Evening with George Carlin at USC”
Recorded summer 1977 at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles.
Intro & Warning [1:40]
Program Open [0:36]
Personal Memories [2:22]
Taking The Stage [10:27]
Dogs & Cats [9:27]
Old Folks & Kids [8:00]
The News [3:20]
Brand Names [2:44]
Perversion of Language [7:07]
Forbidden Words [23:24]
Closing Credits [1:47]
This was George Carlin’s very first HBO show. I think it’s worth keeping in mind that this was still 1977, so it would still be several more years before cable television would become a standard, household thing. So these were still the years when most people truly never heard any of the infamous seven words on their television. In fact, FCC got word of the special and a legal hearing was called. Fortunately a federal court of appeals ruling ruled in favor of Carlin, under the first amendment.
The special opens with Newsweek columnist Shana Alexander, explaining to viewers that:
Tonight you will see a performance usually seen only if you can get to the night clubs, college campuses, and theaters where George Carlin is a constant sell-out. A portion of Mister Carlin’s performance needs special introduction, at least for television. His target is language: how we use it and abuse it. Some would simply say that tonight’s language is very strong. Others would say it goes beyond this and would find it vulgar. Aristophanes, Chaucer and Shakespeare were vulgar too at times.
Anyway, the segment is controversial. It provoked a legal proceeding at the Federal Communications Commission. In March of this year I am happy to say, a federal court of appeals ruled in favor of Mr. Carlin’s right to freedom of speech. Home Box Office intends to provide top programming to subscribers of widely different tastes. One proof of that has been their commitment to bring you the best in contemporary comedy. In the United States in 1977, that includes George Carlin, one of this generation’s philosophers of comedy, defining, reflecting and refining the way we see our own time.
Home Box Office is proud to present this very important performer, but we respect your decision about whether you want to see the program. It contains language you hear every day on the street, though rarely on TV. For those of you who already know George Carlin, you’re in for a special evening. For those of you who want to know George Carlin, I’m glad to be here to introduce you. And now, George Carlin, “On Location”.
The special then continues with Carlin talking about his influences, how he’s been forced to change performances, and being on The Ed Sullivan Show (“Personal Memories”). Finally the performance begins. Just before the “Forbidden Words” routine, the video pauses and a message appears on the screen, reading, “The final segment of Mr. Carlin’s Performance contains especially controversial language, please consider whether you wish to continue viewing.”