12 George Carlin Quotes to Live By
For you regular Loud News readers, you probably know by now that I am a huge fan of stand-up comedy, and one name that will always remain at the top of my list of favorites is the enigmatic George Carlin (1937-2008). Known for his shamelessly crass style and powerful social commentary, above everything he was a philosopher, a title I don’t think he quite gets enough credit for.
He began what would eventually become an illustrious stand-up comedy career in 1956, and truly began to bloom as a comedian in the late 60s as he was swooned by the counter culture movement, creating such legendary bits as his ‘Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television‘. His comedy took a new tone that evolved well into his later years, and like a fine wine, he somehow managed to grow better with age.
Throughout his many comedy albums and specials, countless interviews (such as this High Times interview 10 years before he passed), and 5 books he’s published, you can find an infinite amount of philosophical questions and ideas that just might push the boundaries on your current understanding of life. George Carlin was regarded as one of the most influential comedians in America. George Carlin, over his career, has released 24 albums (20 stand-up albums and four audiobooks), 5 of which earned the GRAMMY Awards which includes his final album, “2008’s It’s Bad For Ya” being awarded posthumously. On June 10, 2008, Carlin was awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor as the 11th recipient. He passed away on June 22, 2008, at the age of 71. For me, his style, comedy, and ideas have been a profound motivation on my own creativity and approach to life. So I’ve picked out 12 quotes from George Carlin that I think are absolutely worthy of puffing some Master Kush and meditating on.
George Carlin Quotes on Politics
Keep in mind, the news media are not independent; they are a sort of bulletin board and public relations firm for the ruling class – the people who run things. Those who decide what news you will or will not hear are paid by, and tolerated purely at the whim of, those who hold economic power. If the parent corporation doesn’t want you to know something, it wont be on the news. Period.
While Donald Trump’s crying out “fake news!” is really his way of diminishing anything that the media says that he doesn’t like, it does play on a sentiment that most of us feel and know exists, which is that media is biased. George Carlin breaks down exactly what drives that bias – money, and power. There is an actual debate to be had about biases that exist in mainstream media and their responsibility to the public to deliver straightforward information. If only we elected officials in our country that communicated ideas in honest and effective ways as someone like George Carlin was infamous for…
If you have selfish, ignorant citizens, you’re gonna get selfish, ignorant leaders.
Along with this quote – “If you vote and elect dishonest, incompetent people into office who screw everything up, you are responsible for what they have done.” – I think it’s safe to say that despite his many critiques of the American government as a whole, he did see some sort of value in democracy and voting. And above all, those voted into office are an extension of the people they are elected to represent. For many of us, someone as ridiculous as Donald Trump being voted into office didn’t surprise us because it simply confirms what we already know – that this country breeds ignorant, mindless people.
Governments don’t want a population capable of critical thinking, they want obedient workers, people just smart enough to run the machines and just dumb enough to passively accept their situation. You have no choice. You have owners.
I once had an English professor in college tell our class that she believed the educational system was only really good for pumping out a subservient workforce. I remember it caught me off guard, as she is a prominent educator at a public college in New York City of all places. Years later, I saw this bit from George Carlin and it sent me back to that moment. With many of his bits, you have to step back to look at the bigger picture, analyze it as he does so well, and ask yourself – is this right? So many of us leave high school and college completely unprepared for the challenges that adulthood will present to us, and those challenges end up being the most important things we all face in our lives. And rarely are said things even mentioned in classrooms, such as the ability to critically think, self-reflect, and grow as a person. But one thing we all know how to do is shut the hell up, do your job and make a paycheck. Hell, it’s the American way.
I don’t think drugs are a problem; I think they’re a symptom. As long as Americans are empty, spiritually, emotionally, morally empty, they will need things like the drugs they choose to use.
The topic of drugs and drug use in this country is such a skewed one. While many people have a negative view on people that use marijuana regularly, they don’t bat an eye when it comes to pharmaceuticals, alcohol and more ‘socially acceptable’ intoxicants like caffeine that are just as harmful. Our elected officials have waged the ‘war on drugs’ for quite some time, all the while simply blaming their existence on why people indulge, completely admonishing the system that seems to make people feel so hopeless that they turn to substances in the first place. It’s such an easy scapegoat to simply label some drugs as evil and others not, all the while pushing the idea that the users are evil too. Anyone with a critical mind, like Carlin, can see this subject is far more complex than the narrative we’ve all been sold.
George Carlin Quotes on Religion
Religion is like a pair of shoes…Find one that fits for you, but don’t make me wear your shoes.
People don’t get to choose their religion like they pick out shoes. You can’t try on different shoes until you find the one that fits perfectly. Latching on to a particular religious tradition in which one was raised is far more common. But the basic point of this is still relatable in the sense that most believers will tell you that the religion they follow fits and is the right one. And perhaps it could be the right one but for them, because everyone is at liberty for choosing their own religion but no religious believer has the right to impose their religion on the rest of us.
Religion has actually convinced people that there’s an invisible man living in the sky who watches everything you do, every minute of every day.
George Carlin Quotes on Life
Trying to be happy by accumulating possessions is like trying to satisfy hunger by taping sandwiches all over your body.
This is Carlin doing what he does best – making you smile while also posing an idea that is incredibly relatable. So much of American culture is about buying things in some vain attempt to make yourself happy, and despite knowing better, it’s so easy for all of us to get swept up in consumerism. Taking a step back and looking at it, it all seems so foolish and ultimately comical.
Obviously, there are people who constrict themselves and build walls around themselves, whether it’s from a moral standpoint or a patriotic standpoint, or just plain old conformity, and who therefore live in those little prisons, and when things breach those walls, it’s shocking for them.
There’s nothing more depressing than meeting someone that clearly has a very close-minded perspective on life. Many of us do build walls, mainly to keep out the things that make us feel uncomfortable in some way, or challenges us to look in the mirror and realize we aren’t exactly who we claim to be. But there is something incredibly empowering about breaking down those walls and addressing the things outside of them like a true warrior as opposed to a coward.
Don’t Just Teach Your children to read… Teach them to question what they read. Teach them to question everything.
While Carlin isn’t the first to posit the idea to “question everything” he has always, in many ways, emphasized it in his comedy; as a matter of fact, you could say it is the core element of his comedy, which he used as a platform to dismantle and deeply analyze aspects of society he simply refused to just shut up and accept. Maintaining an open mind and having an affinity for deep thinking makes you a bit impervious to bullshit, and character trait many people would say that Carlin embodied.
I think people should be allowed to do what they want. We haven’t tried that for a while. Maybe this time it’ll work.
People should be able to do what they want as long as it doesn’t harm or affect others be it directly or indirectly.I will do what I want to do, so should you. As long as I’m doing something that does not put others in danger, why should anyone bother? I didn’t ask to be saved! If I am at my place smoking weed that is none of your business. Drugs and alcohol should be an excuse when you commit a murder or a crime. Being drunk, depressed, or bipolar doesn’t make what you did less of a crime. Why do people feel that they have the right to tell someone what they can and can not do? Keep your self-made rules and morals in your own yard. People can do whatever they please.
Most people work just hard enough not to get fired and get paid just enough not to quit.
This is a sentiment I feel right down to my soul. As someone that, by day, works a day job that I can’t stand, a job that doesn’t at all challenge or engage me and I see it as only a means to an end just to “get by”, I feel this quote as extremely relatable. There are huge differences between a job and a career, and this explanation should present motivation as to why seeking a career is important. When you’re doing something you love, there isn’t enough time in the day; if you’re working a soul-draining job you hate, there’s far too much time in the day. We can always do better, but only if you truly want it.
I’m never critical or judgemental about whether or not a movie is any good. The way I look at it, if several hundred people got together every day for a year or so – a number of them willing to put on heavy makeup, wear clothes that weren’t their own and pretend to be people other than themselves – and their whole purpose for doing all this was to entertain me, then I’m not gonna start worrying about whether or not they did a good job. The effort alone was enough to make me happy.
This is yet another quote that truly spoke to me. In today’s world of social media and blogs, everyone thinks they are a critic. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of things in the society and culture worth criticizing for, but the artistic expression of someone isn’t really one of them. Sure, it’s completely fine to have your own opinion about the value or merit you see in one’s work, but it’s so much more important to uplift the work that truly deserves the attention of others. It feels there is far more negative energy than positive when it comes to the internet, and it’s a shame. It seems like stoners are the last of a dying breed of people that can just light up, shut up and find enjoyment in a ‘bad’ movie.
We think in language. The quality of our thoughts and ideas can only be as good as the quality of our language.
And finally, our last quote is quite possibly my favorite thing George Carlin has ever said (and that is truly saying a lot). Unfortunately, we live in a society that doesn’t really pride itself on individuals having a good understanding of language. If you use words that the average person doesn’t, you’re seen as pompous or arrogant. If you articulate too well then you’re trying to be something that you’re not. It’s as if we are somehow conditioned to feel uncomfortable or intimidated by these things. But Carlin’s quote highlights why it’s necessary to understand that your comprehension of language and how you dictate to others is a reflection of how you think and perceive the world. So if you only have shallow things to say, shallow things to talk about, then chances are that your thoughts are about as shallow as a puddle too.
Hopefully, these quotes have given you a bit to think about. If we happened to miss out on your favorite George Carlin quote (and trust me, we are well aware that there are many, many more that we could have used) let us know!