In recent weeks, stand-up greats Dave Chappelle and Bill Burr have been criticized in the media for their latest comedy specials that have deemed to be controversial. But 18 years ago, stand-up legend George Carlin recorded a comedy special so controversial that it was not released to the public until after his death, eight years after taping the stand-up performance.
On September 9th and 10th of 2001, George Carlin recorded a comedy special at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada. The comedy special would not see the light of day until September 16, 2016, over eight years after Carlin died. The comedy special had such a controversial stand-up routine that even the unflinching George Carlin would not attempt to get the album released.
On September 10, 2001, Carlin recorded a comedy album. Unfortunately for the iconic comic, he recorded the comedy special the day before the terror attacks of 9/11. The reason for the sensitivity regarding the comedy special is because Carlin named the album I Kinda Like It When a Lotta People Die. Again, this comedy special was recorded one day before nearly 3,000 people were killed in the September 11th terror attacks at the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington D.C., and the downed airliner in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
On the I Kinda Like It When a Lotta People Die album, there is a comedy bit titled Uncle Dave, which was originally named I Kinda Like It When a Lotta People Die when Carlin experimented with the comedy in the summer of 2011.
The material recorded on Sept. 10th was supposed to be part of a new HBO special. But that would never happen, understandably so because the social commentary was so inflammatory, especially after the mass deaths on 9/11. The comedy special would have rightfully drawn ire if it was released anytime after the heartless attack that killed thousands of innocent Americans. Carlin kept the recorded stand-up routine and labeled the cassettes as “NITE BEFORE 9/11.”
In the pre-9/11 comedy special, Carlin joked about rooting for natural and manmade disasters. In the 10-minute stand-up bit, Carlin talks about his love of hurricanes, earthquakes, famine, cholera, typhoid and an asteroid smashing into the Earth. Carlin, who built an entire career by pushing the boundaries of what can be funny, also joked about disasters caused by man such as global warming.
In the philosophical comedy routine, Carlin pointed out that a catastrophe would open a crack in the universe that brings back all the dead people including everyone’s “Uncle Dave.” All of the zombies would create a “swirling pool of hate” because they would lament how badly they were screwed over in their living years and blame everyone else for their failures. The hate becomes so powerful that it causes a Big Bang-esque explosion and creates a heaven-like utopia in the stars with a “million Uncle Daves.”
In this nirvana is where the Uncle Daves have “good jobs, perfect eyesight, brand new underwear, they all have shoes that fit perfectly, good medical plans, they all like their neighbors, and their favorite teams win the World Series every year, and none of them has a hacking cough. And each week without fail, every one of the Uncle Daves wins the lottery. Every week forever and ever until the end of time, Uncle Dave has a winning ticket. And Uncle Dave is finally happy,” Carlin said in the comedy bit. “Now do you see why I like it when a lot of people die,” Carlin ends the dark satire.
Coincidentally, Carlin told another controversial fart joke before September 11th about 9/11 mastermind Osama Bin Laden and commercial airlines going up in flames. In the joke titled The Fecal Differential, Carlin said there could be so much flatulence in an airplane’s cabin that the gas causes an explosion. “You know who gets blamed? Osama bin Laden,” Carlin joked. “The FBI is looking for explosives. They should be looking for minute traces of rice and bok choy.”
Carlin would release an HBO comedy special two months after 9/11 titled Complaints and Grievances, but the death comedy bit was removed for obvious reasons. Carlin, who is regarded as one of the greatest comedians, especially for his social commentary, had no idea that the attacks on America were coming.
George Carlin had tremendous timing throughout his fabled comedy career, but his timing for I Kinda Like It When a Lotta People Die was slightly off, and there was nothing he could have done about it.