George Carlin Quotations from Interviews and Other Appearances
Here are some popularly shared George Carlin quotations that he actually said, directly sourced and quoted from an actual interview, television appearance, or documentary.
From his appearances in the documentary The Aristrocrats (2005)
I do like finding out where the line is drawn, deliberately crossing it, bringing some of them with me across the line, and having them be happy that I did.
There are a number of variations of this floating around the Internet, namely ones that quote him as saying that it’s “the job of every comedian to…” or similar. At the time of this writing, it’s hard to say whether such variations are authentic variations from some other source (e.g., an interview) or are just the result of people stupidly misquoting him again.
Other Television Appearances
Did you ever dial the phone and forget who you’re calling? Don’t you feel dumb? You don’t know whether to hang on and hope you remember the voice or not. Then when you remember who it was, you have to call back, so you change your voice so they don’t think you’re a moron, right?
“Saturday Night Live”, 1975 (debut episode, monologue #3)
Religion at best, at best, is like a lift in your shoe. If you need it for a while, and it makes you walk straight and feel better, fine. But you don’t need it forever, or you can become permanently disabled. Religion is like a lift in the shoe, and I say just don’t ask me to wear your shoes. And let’s not go down and nail lifts onto the natives’ feet.
“Saturday Night Live”, 1975 (debut episode)
This is a variation on a routine on his album Toledo Window Box (1974), on a track titled “God”
You don’t need a formal conspiracy when interests converge. These people went to the same universities and fraternities, they’re on the same boards of directors, they’re on the same country clubs, they have like-interests. They don’t need to call a meeting; they know what is good for THEM, and they are getting it. And there used to be seven oil companies. There are now three. It will soon be two. The things that matter in this country have been reduced in choice: there are two political parties, there are a handful of insurance companies, there are six or seven information centers. But if you want a bagel there are 23 flavors because you have the ILLUSION, you have the ILLUSION of choice. You don’t get the real important choices. No freedom of choice.
“Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher”. Episode aired May 16, 2001. Guest panel: George Carlin, Horace Cooper (to whom Carlin was responding), Julie Warner, Robert Shapiro.
What’s funny is that I see this quotation being used most often by conspiracy theorists who really do believe in the whole “Illuminati” thing. That’s not what Carlin is alluding to. Apparently, they missed that key word, “formal”. They also overlooked the line “They don’t need to call a meeting”.
[Commenting on “Jammin in New York”] “The planet will take care of itself. People are selfish, and that’s what they’re doing, is trying to save the planet for themselves to have a nicer place to live. They don’t care about the planet, in theory. They just care about having a comfortable place. And these people with the fires and the floods and everything, they overbuild, they put nature to the test and they get what’s coming to ‘em. […] I can’t wait for the sea levels to rise. I can’t wait for some of these cities to disappear. There are places that are going to go away. The map is going to change. People think nature is outside of them. They don’t take into them the idea that we’re part of it. They say ‘“Oh we’re going for a nature walk! We’re going to the country because we like nature!’ Nature’s in here and if you’re in tune with it like the INdians, the Hopis especially, the balance of life, the balance, the harmony of nature, if you understand that you don’t overbuild. You don’t do all this moron stuff. […] It’s a symphony, everybody is in the band. You know, it’s not just one group. People want their goodies. They want their toys. Everybody wants the newest gizmo. We’re slaves to the gizmos and toys. […] Everybody wanys a cell phone that will make pancakes and they think that’ll make them happy.*
The View, 2007. Parts were quoted in an article on People magazine’s website (“George Carlin, Jamie Lee Curtis Blame Humans for Fires” by Tim Nudd, 10/24/2007)
When fascism comes to America, it will not be in brown and black shirts. It will not be with jack-boots. It will be Nike sneakers and Smiley shirts. Smiley, smiley. This, the fascism– Germany lost the Second World War. Fascism won it. Believe me, my friend.
“Real Time with Bill Maher”, Season 3 Episode 16. First aired September 9, 2005. Carlin was on a Panel with Bill Maher, James K. Glassman, and Cynthia Tucker. The line comes in around 25:50 into the episode.
[A large comet hitting the Pacific Ocean] would be terrible, and it would be wonderful. Just to see it all, you know. I only wish there were some way I could live out on the moon and watch it all on CNN. And just see the whole thing happen, see the big splash. Or have it hit land and this big cloud erupt. That would be fun to see. I’m just a fan of big disasters. And that is as big as t hey get. Let ‘em go. I just want to describe the mess. But, you know, life is dual. If you’ll scratch a cynic, you’ll find a disappointed idealist. And the fire never goes out completely. And that part of me that made my mother say, “You have a lovely nature,” is very true.
The Progressive, 2001
I think of shock as kind of an uptown form of surprise. 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.
The Onion A.V. Club, November 10, 1999
A similar variation shows up in the film The Aristrocrats, around the 01:13:28 mark: “Now, some people do this for shock value. Shock is just another uptown word for surprise. Granted it has a different quality to it, but a joke is about surprising someone. I’m a great believer in context. You can joke about anything. I do like finding out where the line is drawn, deliberately crossing it and bringing some of them with me across the line, and having them be happy that I did.”
There’s a very similar-sounding quotation that shows up a lot on the Internet that you’ve probably seen before, but I’m still trying to find its source. In the meantime, there are two sourceable quotations with the same sort of message.
If it’s true that we are all from the center of a star, every atom in each of us from the center of a star, then we’re all the same thing. Even a Coke machine or a cigarette butt in the street in Buffalo, is made out of atoms that came from a star. They’ve all recycled thousands of times, as have you and I. So, if that is true, then I am EVERYWHERE in the universe, in an extended sense. And therefore, it’s only ME out there. So what is there to be afraid of? What is there that needs solace seeking? Nothing! There is nothing to be afraid of because it’s all us. […] The trouble is, we have been separated from within that universe by being born and given a name, and an identity, and being individuated. We have been separated from the oneness and that’s what religion exploits, that people have this yearning to be part of the overall one again. So they exploit that. They call it ‘God’; they say he has rules and I think that’s cruel. I think you can do it absent religion.
Interview with Terry Gross. Fresh Air. National Public Radio (NPR). WHYY, Philadelphia. Nov 1, 2004. Hear the whole interview on NRP.org here.
When you’re born in this world you’re given a ticket to the Freak Show. And when you’re born in America, you’re given a front row seat. And some of us get to sit there with notebooks.
Archive of American Television, 2008
They say if you scratch a cynic, you’ll find a disappointed idealist. And I would admit, that somewhere underneath all this there’s a little flicker of a flame of idealism that would love to see it all — whoosh! — change. But it can’t happen that way. And incremental change — it just seems the pile of shit is too deep. It seems like there’s too much to do.
Archive of American Television, 2008