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Top 10 George Carlin Bits

VO: Rebecca Brayton
He was a social analyst, nonconformist and one of the greatest stand-up comedians ever: George Carlin influenced almost every comic who came after him by perfecting not only his delivery, but also by picking apart the status quo and minutiae of everyday life and language. No one did observational humor quite like him, and while his comedy did border on the bitter in his later years, it still packed a punch like only Carlin could deliver. In honor of his birthday on May 12th, 1937, counts down our picks for George Carlin’s top 10 bits. Please be advised: this clip contains mature language and themes. You have been warned!

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Top 10 George Carlin Bits

He was a social analyst, nonconformist and one of the greatest stand-up comedians ever. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 George Carlin bits.

Please be advised: this clip contains mature language and themes. You have been warned!

#10 – “Have a Nice Day”

Album – “A Place for My Stuff” (1981)
Carlin made it out of the hippy-dippy ‘70s a little older, a little more clean-cut and a little crankier. He had already made himself famous by picking apart the ridiculous way people interact, and this bit is the ultimate example. This routine came at a time when he was still focusing on observational humor, not politics or the grumpy old man shtick.

#9 – “State Prison Farms”

Album – “Back in Town” (1996)
This is when Carlin started railing against society with newfound bitterness: here’s his blackly funny hypothesis about carting the worst criminals to fenced-off rectangular-shaped states, where they’d fight to the death for captivated TV audiences. His trademark vocabulary in full-force, he spouts religious one-liners as easily as he paints absurd mental pictures. This bit is essential Carlin because of the questions it asks about morality and the system.

#8 – “Dumb Americans”

Album – “Life is Worth Losing” (2006)
It plays more as a rant than as a comedy routine, but this Carlin bit was way ahead of the curve. As a forefather of Jon Stewart- and Stephen Colbert-types, Carlin brought politics and comedy together to give us a clear perspective, only he did it with a venomous, anti-establishment view. Long story short: the system’s broken, corporations are evil and the American dream is… Well, he’ll tell you.

#7 – “The Planet is Fine”

Album – “Jammin’ in New York” (1992)
This was one of Carlin’s personal favorites, and it’s just as relevant now as it was then. Carlin attacks self-righteous environmentalists for their arrogance over the “save the planet” game. Bleak? Yes. Blunt? Yup. Brutal? Uh-huh. But that was Carlin in his later years. Gotta wonder if he wanted to see humanity fall flat on its collective face.

#6 – “Things You Never See”/”Things You Never Hear”/”Things You Never Want to Hear”

Album – “Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics” (1990)
Like we’ve mentioned, Carlin was a fan of words and theoretical situations. The fast-talking, mind-bending wordsmith invents a succession of bizarre hypotheticals, strung together by his increasingly-gravelly voice – only the “Things You Never See/Hear/or Want to Hear” were a little more innocent than those listed in “State Prison Farms.” Well, sorta. Sometimes all it takes is funny turn-of-phrase and a good dose of profanity to bust a gut.

#5 – “Goin’ Through My Address Book”/“Things We Say When People Die”/“He’s Smiling Down”/“Parents in Hell”

Album – “It’s Bad For Ya” (2008)
Recorded just months before his death, the album “It’s Bad for Ya” features several bits that deal with aging and death. And, of course, the ridiculous things people say when confronted with these facts of life. Particularly poignant because of its timing, satirical as always, and sharp-tongued as ever, Carlin goes for logic over emotion, questions false sympathy and reiterates his intolerance for bullshit.

#4 – “Religion”/“There Is No God”

Album – “You Are All Diseased (1999)
Depending on your point-of-view, this bit could be incredibly abrasive or incredibly relevant. But you can be sure Carlin did not care – he knew that nothing in smart comedy was out-of-bounds. His Catholic upbringing inspired a hostile view of religion, but also helped him understand the topic enough to pick it apart with surgical precision. Hey, he almost makes praying to Joe Pesci make sense – how can you beat that?

#3 – “A Place for My Stuff”

Album – “A Place for My Stuff” (1981), “Carlin on Campus” (1984)
Carlin’s stand-up focused on many profound topics, but it can’t all be religion, politics and death: with spot-on observational humor like this, Carlin wins everyone back and blows their minds – and we mean everyone. Who can’t relate to the idea of stuff: having stuff, keeping stuff, getting more stuff? Great writing and even greater delivery help this bit give new meaning to the phrase “it’s funny cause it’s true.”

#2 – “Baseball and Football”

Album – “An Evening with Wally Londo Featuring Bill Slaszo” (1975), “Carlin on Campus” (1984)
While many praise his political comedy, Carlin was at his best when focusing on lighter, universal commentaries on everyday things. Perhaps one of the greatest examples of his grip on language and pop culture is this famous sports-themed routine, which he tweaked throughout his career. Why’d he keep coming back to it? It’s a classic: funny, accurate, biting, articulate and a little mean; it’s Carlin to a tee.

#1 – “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television”/“Filthy Words”

Album – “Class Clown” (1972), “Occupation: Foole” (1973)
It was the early-‘70s and Carlin was emerging from his mainstream shell as a counterculture icon. This breakout bit built Carlin’s name and got him arrested, while the updated “Filthy Words” took things to the Supreme Court. Indecent but not obscene, this became his signature routine because it dissected language, skewered the status quo, and had lotsa cursing. We’re still looking for the job where swearing is applauded.

Do you agree with our list? Which is your favorite George Carlin routine? For more top 10s, be sure to subscribe to

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