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Film

The person Stephen Colbert called "The Beatles of comedy"

There have been a lot of debate about the current landscape of comedy, with many championing comedians like Dave Chappelle. Many modern audiences continue to revisit the legacies of some of the most iconic comedians that changed the art form forever. A new documentary has come out about one such icon whom Stephen Colbert compared to the Beatles.

Titled George Carlin’s American Dream, it’s a new project by Judd Apatow which features interviews from other icons such as Jon Stewart, Bill Burr, Jerry Seinfeld and many others. It is a celebration of the life and legacy of George Carlin, a comedic force who is often named among the greatest comedians of all time.

A huge figure in the development of counterculture comedy, Carlin’s subversive humour wasn’t just a superficial attack on the hypocrisies of American culture. Instead, it was actually a highly nuanced philosophical doctrine that weaponised the public consciousness against the pernicious cultural hegemonies.

In an interview, Apatow commented on the territory of the new project “The only aspect of his career that I probably didn’t spend enough time on was his silly, dirty, puerile material. He would spend an enormous amount of time on farts and boogers and pooping your pants, and oftentimes that was the first half of his set.”

Talking about his various approaches, he added: “Then he had more thoughtful political and philosophical ideas in the second part. So he had an approach to pleasing an audience and doing a lot of different styles of comedy within one set. That’s what is really amazing about him: He succeeded at high comedy and low comedy.”

During his segment in the new documentary, Stephen Colbert claimed that George Carlin was “the Beatles of comedy”. Elaborating on Carlin’s influence on him, Colbert added: “His ability to do fugue-like explorations of an idea, I’d say that’s something that I lifted purely from Carlin, stylistically, when I first worked for Jon Stewart.”

There was one specific question that Colbert learned to ask himself while working on his own routines after watching and absorbing Carlin’s unique style. According to Colbert, that question was: “Like there’s this thing that happens in the world, there’s the comedic explication of it and then what’s the logical extension of this insane thing?”

Watch exclusive footage from the documentary below.