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Last Words: A Memoir

A book by George Carlin

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Carlin's Last Words

  • Aug 30, 2010
“Last Words” by George Carlin with Tony Hendra is an interesting and entertaining look at the life of George Carlin, a popular and brilliant comic for many years, who not only seemed to get better with age, but who also suffered from drug and alcohol addiction and heart troubles for many years.  The book starts with his birth, literally, and proceeds to cover the highlights of stardom and the low points that few knew about, during his fifty-year career.
In 1993, George Carlin asked Tony Hendra, his friend and bestselling author, to help him write his autobiography.  For the next fifteen years, the two discussed Carlin’s life, times, and evolution as a major artist.  In June 2008, Carlin, age seventy-one, died with the book unfinished.  Hendra assembled the book as his friend would have wanted.  I believe he did an outstanding job of capturing the brutal honesty Carlin was known for.  He blended the life stories, the ups and downs, and razor-sharp comedy that was Carlin’s trademark, into an engaging account of the star’s life that Carlin would be proud to have on the bookstore shelves.
I’ve always enjoyed Carlin’s stand-up routines, and his appearances in the few movies he was featured in.  Sure, I knew there was some drug and alcohol use, but I never realized just how much, and how he struggled with the abuse for so many years.  I also knew about the heart troubles, but didn’t know the extent of the heart attacks and procedures Carlin had over the years, or how close to dying he was during a couple of the episodes.
The above topics are pretty serious, but they are handled in a humorous, but still serious manner, that is engaging and helps the reader understand the comedian at a deeper level.  Equally revealing are the stories of his family relationships, often troubled, but enduring, as well as interactions and thoughts about others in the same business. 
Through his life journey, we also see how his comedy developed and advanced, and how dedicated Carlin was to his craft.  He worked at what he did, always attempting to hone his comedy and perform for the live crowds he stood before for most of his life.  Segments of these live routines are included in the book, as we learn how the routine was developed, and I could hear in my head Carlin delivering the lines, and yes, I did laugh out loud a few times.  I also liked the way the book ended, on a positive note going forward, even though we know he is no longer with us.
If you are a fan of Carlin’s and want to learn about his life, the good and the bad, you’ll enjoy “Last Words.”  It is a fitting tribute to one of comedy’s most brilliant minds.

Reviewed by Alain Burrese, J.D., author of Hard-Won Wisdom From the School of Hard Knocks and the dvds: Hapkido Hoshinsul, Streetfighting Essentials, Hapkido Cane, the Lock On Joint Locking Essentials series and articles including a regular column on negotiation for The Montana Lawyer. Alain Also wrote a series of articles called Lessons From The Apprentice.

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Alain B. Burrese ()
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Alain Burrese, J.D., is a writer, speaker and mediator. He delivers a powerful keynote called Discover Your Warrior's Edge which is a motivational presentation on making things happen with honor and … more
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About this book


For more than a decade before his 2008 death, groundbreaking stand-up comedian Carlin had been working on his autobiography with writer Hendra (Father Joe), who finished it by distilling hours of conversations with the irascible social commentator. Armed with an eye for detail and a seemingly photographic memory, Carlin retraces his life in full, chronicling petty crimes and stolen kisses, escalating drug problems and the death of his wife with unflinching honesty. He applies that same precision to the mechanics of comedy, giving would-be comics a veteran's insight into the dynamics of crowds, the structure of a performance and the importance (or unimportance) of the social and political landscape. Tracing his evolution as a comedian from the first time he made his mother laugh to performing for an empty room in Baltimore to the series of HBO specials he made over the course of his career, Carlin peppers his narrative with the routines that have made him famous (though this is no gagfest, a la Brain Droppings, When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops?, etc.). Throughout, Carlin comes off as a smart, humble everyman with a strong distaste for hypocrisy in all its forms; fans may be surprised at his discipline and drive, and anyone interested in comedy should find this autobio as illuminating as it is funny.
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ISBN-10: 1439172951
ISBN-13: 978-1439172957
Author: George Carlin
Genre: Biographies & Memoirs, Entertainment
Publisher: Free Press
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