George Carlin: Life Is Worth Losing Rocco Urbisci

This new bare-bones DVD record of a George Carlin special taped in 2005 for HBO finds the comedian in full-on rant mode, covering a wide range of uncomfortable subject matter, from U.S. obesity to the beheading of mercenary civilian contractors in Iraq, from the apocalypse to dingle berries. Carlin announces near the start of the show that the following year marks his 50th in show business. This somewhat astonishing fact underlines his status as very nearly the last of a now-legendary generation of comics, including the likes of Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor, who took aim for the collective American jugular and hammered home unpleasant truths. Carlin proves here that his capacity for vitriol is undiminished, even if the opening stretch suggests that age may have thrown his timing off: his rather self-satisfied "man of the millennium” spiel goes on way too long to too little effect. He recovers a more characteristic sense of balance as the set progresses, offering a definition of "pussy farts” with a palpable dirty glee befitting the man who brought us "The Seven Dirty Words You Can’t Say On Television” and who told the first complete version of that eponymous filthy joke in The Aristocrats. In what seems like almost the same breath, he offers a grim, scabrous vision of a social breakdown in America, with a nationwide loss of power leading to mass prison breaks and home invasions. His career-long dedication to prodding the comfort zone of his audience has culminated in a strange pinnacle: his relentlessly dark worldview has never seemed more in sync with the general mood, and probably not just in the U.S. (A key line is: "What we are is semi-civilized beasts, with baseball caps and automatic weapons.”) While this DVD may not present Carlin in his prime (and I’m not sure it would necessarily repay more than one viewing), it certainly proves he isn’t ready for the Catskills Hall of Fame just yet. (Warner)