My Comedy Hero: Shazia Mirza on George Carlin
The former teacher and acclaimed stand-up picks the late, great rabblerousing US comic as her hero
When I was a teacher, two boys were fighting in my class. I pulled them aside and said, ‘what’s going on?’ One said, ‘miss, he nicked my stuff!’ The other said, ‘no, it was my stuff’. I said, ‘what is this “stuff” you’re talking about?’ And one of them shouted, ‘it’s just stuff, you know’.
Instead of giving them a detention I played them a video of George Carlin doing a routine about ‘stuff’. They laughed their heads off and at the end one of them said, ‘he knows about stuff?’ They felt someone could relate to them and they had a long discussion about ‘stuff’ which ended with them feeling really stupid about themselves, and I didn’t have to say a word.
That’s why George Carlin is so brilliant. He was a brilliant mind that could very vividly, logically and simply mirror the absurdities of human behaviour. He was the master of ridiculing the obvious aspects of people. He was intelligent, a great social commentator, philosopher, observer and truth teller.
I didn’t like and agree with a lot of what he had to say, but I always wanted to listen to it. Religion, rape, fat people, the death penalty, global warming, education, people who should be killed and America: they were always huge topics that affect every person in the world. Everyone could relate to it, from 14-year-old fighting teenage boys to an old woman at a bus stop in San Francisco I once saw reading one of his books. And he managed to make these topics hilariously funny. His routines are timeless, and that is the sign of a great comedian.
As told to Brian Donaldson