Last night at the Paley Center in NYC, the likes of Lewis Black, Robert Klein, Lizz Winstead, Larry Wilmore, Kelly Carlin, and Kliph Nesteroff all gathered under the same roof to pay tribute to the late-great George Carlin. And for good reason. George Carlin’s “stuff” is heading to the National Comedy Center.
The event, aptly named Satire and Democracy: Empowering the Citizenry with Comedy, saw the aforementioned comedy minds, the daughter of George Carlin, and the author behind the book The Comedians: Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels and the History of American Comedy discuss Carlin, his impact on not only them personally, but the comedy community as well as the state of comedy today.
The audience was filled with comedians to the tune of Judah Friedlander, Costaki Economopoulos, Chuck Nice, Keith Alberstadt, Tony Deyo, Tom Cotter and more. There were managers, agents, and plenty of press to take in what was an extraordinary evening of conversation and celebration for the art and craft that is stand-up comedy.
Journey Gunderson, Executive Director of the National Comedy Center, starting things off by introducing everyone to the Center, it’s plans, and brought out Kelly Carlin for a special announcement. Carlin addressed the audience with several touching stories about her father. Stories she didn’t even know about until they were brought to her attention after his passing from comics all across the country. “When George would see an up-and-coming comic perform, he would talk to them about the set, give advice, and encourage them to continue on. Then, six months later, call the comic and follow up, check-in, and see how they were doing.” Powerful stuff.
“So why am I here?” asked Carlin. “Well, after dad died, there were these three ginormous storage units. My dad was a little OCD, slightly compulsive, and he kept things.” She continued, “There ended up being ten steamer trunks of his memorabilia filled with clippings, calendars, photos, video tapes of appearances, lists of dates, 8-track tapes, notes with setlists clipped to the back… this man had issues.” There was an uproarious laugh from everyone in the room. Well, his issues are our gain.
“One of my greatest joys is when a comic would come over to my house and I’d ask them, ‘Hey, you want to see George’s stuff?’ Their eyes would light up like it was Christmas.” said Carlin. “Then I thought, ‘What do I do with all of this stuff?'” Gunderson had reached out to Carlin in hopes she would head up to Jamestown, NY to perform her one woman show at the Comedy Center’s Lucille Ball Comedy Festival. She agree and the rest is history. Carlin fell in love with the people, the town, and what the Comedy Center meant. Carlin closed by saying, “I’m just so thrilled to be in my dad’s home city the week of his birthday to announce that George Carlin’s stuff is going to be in Jamestown, NY and you are all going to have to come up and see it!”
After the announcement, Nesteroff moderated the discussion with the distinguished panel and was announced for the first time as Chief Curator of the Comedy Center’s forthcoming museum experience. The panelists all took turns telling incredible stories about George Carlin, some known and others unknown. They discussed their own viewpoints and roles in comedy from Lizz Winstead creating The Daily Show to Larry Wilmore’s recent appearance at the White House Correspondents Dinner. Lewis Black remembers the day he got his first copy of The Realist and Robert Klein describes what it was like being responsible for the first ever HBO special.
It was quite a scene at the Paley Center. A night to remember to say the very least. A night that paid tribute to a game changing legend. A night in support of one of the greatest exports this country has ever invented and still provides to this day, stand-up comedy. It was a night that let us know where we are headed as a society. And of course, a night where we found out where all of George Carlin’s “stuff” will wind up for generations upon generations to flock to in tribute to a man who has influenced and continues to influence and shape a culture he once turned on its head while walking this earth.
We miss you George. We thank you for everything you’ve ever given us. And now… for all of your “stuff.”
National Comedy Center is scheduled to open in 2017. The Comedy Center’s 2016 Lucille Ball Comedy Festival will take place August 4-7 and will feature Lewis Black, Trevor Noah, and Brian Regan. Panel discussion featuring screenwriter-directors the Farrelly Brothers, and the daughters of Lenny Bruce as well as Richard Pryor. Head here for tickets and info.