My first-ever public performance occurred in elementary school, when I was around 10 or 11 years old. For the P.S. 216 talent show, Russell Magidson and I dressed up in little kiddie suits and ties, sat at tiny desks like itty bitty mini news anchors, and “performed” George Carlin’s “The 11 O’Clock News” routine (from his “FM & AM” album) in front of several hundreds students and teachers.
And by “performed,” I mean, we read the hilarious, pre-SNL selection of one-line news headline parodies off of scripts. Also, by performed, I mean that we killed.
This first exposure to the thrill of making an audience laugh would ultimately lead to a lifelong relationship with comedy in various forms, including writing, performing, and covering it at great length (although in fairness, early SNL, Monty Python, and the National Lampoon had a hand in it as well – together with George, they were the grand Four Horsemen of my comedic development.)
So George’s death last year was a shock to me. As a fan, writer, comedian, and one who was fortunate enough to have gotten to know the man just a bit beyond simply watching him on the small screen, I found that George contained a practical wisdom almost unheard of today, especially within the media.