“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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About the reviewer
Alain B. Burrese (AlainB)
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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