Abounding yuks, chuckles, guffaws, rip-snorts--though few side-splitters--in this free-form compendium of Carlin's comedy stylings.
A growing number of modern comics, from Bill Cosby to Tim Allen, have enjoyed a profitable sideline in adapting their shtick (with varying degrees of success) to the exigencies of the written word. Now veteran stand-up comic Carlin takes his own shot at authorship. Unlike many niche comics, who focus on a limited range of subjects built around an easily typecast persona, Carlin has a protean talent, and his book is a kind of mini-encyclopedia of humor, ranging from wretched puns ("The lazy composer still has several scores to settle''), to Steven Wrightstyle one-liners ("I put a dollar in one of those change machines. Nothing changed''), to classically structured jokes ("I got a chest x-ray last month, and they found a spot on my lung. Fortunately, it was barbecue sauce''). He also offers a number of longer comic meditations on subjects as diverse as sports and grief, while avoiding such stale stand-up staples as airline food and 7-11s. Carlin has an unusual concern with language, combining a grammarian's precision with a sharp eye for the absurd: "Favorite oxymorons: nondairy creamer, death benefits, holy war.'' He is less successful when he examines things he deeply cares about, like politics and justice. His anger is too close to the surface, his otherwise latent didacticism too blatant. Many of the jokes, taken straight from Carlin's act, suffer from being reduced to the printed page. With the right timing, the right droll delivery, they would be hilarious, but here, without help, they fall flat.
Carlin succeeds admirably, though not without qualification.