George Carlin wanted to be Danny Kaye when he grew up. Instead, his straight-arrow career was hijacked by the counterculture, and he became the angry voice of a generation. Today, he laments that generation's loss of idealism, but he does so driving a BMW and luxuriating in his private flotation tank, which he calls "Our Lady of Good Salt." After decades of misanthropic stand-up, Carlin promises that a newfound grace infuses his book Brain Droppings, which Hyperion is publishing this spring. "There's a surprising amount of innocence and sweetness in it," he says. And even though he excoriated Mickey Mouse when the "imaginary rodent's" 65th birthday became a news item, the comedian wants you to celebrate when he turns 60 in May.
Q: Let me read you something from your own act: "I hope Mickey dies. I do. I hope he goddamn dies. I hope he gets ahold of some tainted cheese..."
A: "...and dies lonely and forgotten behind the baseboard of a soiled bathroom in a poor neighborhood with his hand in Goofy's pants."
Q: What did Mickey Mouse ever do to you?
A: That's not how these things generate themselves. What Mickey Mouse did to me was to represent something -- in this case, meaningless shit on the news, the way they fill our minds with all this stuff to distract us from the real tragedy. He's a symbolic figure.
Q: This spring marks your 20th year on HBO, your 40th year in show business, and your 60th year on the planet. What makes your birthday different from Mickey Mouse's?
A: I hope they don't ever use my birthday as a news item. That would be one distinction. I would also hope to tell people I'm 60 because it's a nice human fact for a guy like me to make it all the way to 60.
Q: Do you exercise?
A: I use a treadmill because I've had three heart attacks. My father died at 57. His first symptom of heart trouble was a trip to St. Raymond's Cemetery.
Q: Do you have any of the appliances or equipment that you make fun of in your comedy routines: camcorders, pasta makers...?
A: I have no pasta maker. I probably have a device at home that would take pictures of moving images and would pass for a camcorder, but I don't know where it is.