George Carlin's lost pre-9/11 routine gets new life on CD

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On September 9 and 10, 2001, George Carlin performed in Las Vegas, working out material for a planned live HBO special that was to derive its title from his closing routine: "I Kinda Like It When a Lotta People Die."

Almost immediately, the comedian's extended rant about how fond he was of disasters -- natural, terrorism, you name it -- was rendered even more offensive than intended by the events of 9/11. And so Carlin jettisoned that piece, eventually airing a special two months later with the title "Complaints and Grievances."

Now, the routine is being released as part of a CD featuring standup from those concerts, as well as other snippets from Carlin's personal library. The latter includes a private recording from 1957, when a 20-year-old Carlin muses -- with what feels like equal prescience about recent headlines -- about not trusting the police.

Carlin died in 2008. The new album was assembled under the stewardship of his daughter, Kelly, and his longtime manager Jerry Hamza, who said he had all but forgotten about the disaster bit before they began poring over old recordings. (Carlin had labeled the cassettes "NITE BEFORE 9/11.")

Hamza recalled that everyone instantly realized the HBO special would have to be changed, and there was a fleeting thought it might be canceled.

"He knew immediately that after 9/11, this was not gonna make it," Hamza said.

The show ultimately did go on, but without its signature piece, while the title, promotional artwork and set were changed. Carlin later reworked the most provocative parts, using a significantly revised version in the special "Life is Worth Losing."

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Not only did Carlin contemplate mass deaths in the pre-Sept. 11 shows, but he joked about an airplane blowing up due to economy-class flatulence, saying the tragedy would be blamed on Osama bin Laden.

Notably, the Vegas crowd sounds a bit fidgety and uncomfortable as Carlin enthusiastically discusses mass-casualty situations. That reaction was something the comic relished.

"If he could ruffle your feathers, that made him happy," Hamza said, noting that when people would walk out on his shows, Carlin would say to him, "Isn't that great?"

In the liner notes, comic Lewis Black -- also known for his combustible outbursts -- praises Carlin's disaster material for offering "the balm of laughter" in dealing with tragedy.

Listen closely, though, and Carlin's acerbic take actually contains a subtle media critique -- an observation about the way people watch and consume bad news. "That's all I want: a good show," he says, making clear that to the ghoulish inner id he's essentially exposing, a high death toll is just another form of infotainment.

According to Hamza there are plans for additional releases culled from old Carlin routines -- including one that will showcase the clean, profanity-free stand-up appearances he made on programs like "Ed Sullivan" and "The Tonight Show." He added that the comic would be pleased to see "I Kinda Like It When a Lotta People Die" receive such exposure, even belatedly.

"We think this album is going to help bring George back to the fore," he said.

"I Kinda Like It When a Lotta People Die" will be available on CD and digital platforms beginning Sept. 16.


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