Release Date(s)1957-2016 (June 12, 2018)
Studio(s)HBO/Various (MPI Home Video)
- Film/Program Grade: A+
- Video Grade: B
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: A
Let me start with the bottom line right up front in this review, so there’s no doubt whatsoever where we’re going here: These days there are few videodisc releases that feel worthy of the moniker “must have,” and even fewer on our old favorite format standard DVD. But yes, eighteen years into the 21st century, MPI’s George Carlin: Commemorative Collection DVD box set is hand-down a must have release.
It would be hard to overstate the impact George Carlin had on the world of stand-up comedy. This is the comedian whose “seven dirty words” routine led to a U.S. Supreme Court case about the power of the FCC to regulate “decent” material on the airwaves. Carlin was one of the first comedians to have his own stand-up special on cable, specifically then new HBO in 1977. You may know him from those specials, you may know him from his many appearances on the The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson or Saturday Night Life. Or you may first have encountered him as the time-traveling Rufus on Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Wherever your first experience with Carlin, he made an instant impression. Carlin spoke truth to power… and the rest of us too. As much as he was a comedian, Carlin was a philosopher and a keen observer of culture. He had no patience whatsoever for bullshit, a characteristic I particularly appreciated in him. And his later political humor was sharp, sharp, sharp. Carlin was Carlin and, though he’s sadly left this world behind, it seems as if we need him more now than ever. Which is what makes this new 10-disc box set from MPI such a Godsend.
This may not be the complete Carlin, as that would require a 20+ disc set full of comedy CDs too. But it sure as hell feels complete, at least from the video side of things. Not only do you get all 14 of his legendary HBO specials collected in one place for the first time, including the Jon Stewart hosted 40 Years of Comedy (most on DVD but the last two in full HD on Blu-ray), you also one of those comedy CDs (his final, in fact, called I Kinda Like It When a Lotta People Die). And you get a bunch of rare bonus content from the Carlin archives too, including early TV appearances, a lost network TV special, a rare and unaired HBO TV pilot from 1984 in which he starred, rare stage appearances, and much more. This is material from the earliest days of his career, all the way to his final days. In fact, the It’s Bad for You special was recorded just 4 months before his death.
Here’s the complete list of the content in this box, disc by disc (all in SD except where indicated):
- Disc One – On Location with George Carlin at USC (1977)
- Disc One – George Carlin: Again! (1978)
- Disc Two – Carlin at Carnegie (1982)
- Disc Two – Carlin On Campus (1982)
- Disc Two – Playin’ with Your Head (1986)
- Disc Three – What Am I Doing in New Jersey? (1988)
- Disc Three – Doin’ It Again (1990)
- Disc Three – Jammin’ in New York (1992)
- Disc Four – Back in Town (1996)
- Disc Four – George Carlin: 40 Years of Comedy (1997)
- Disc Four – You Are All Diseased (1999)
- Disc Five – Complaints & Grievances (2001)
- Disc Five – Life Is Worth Losing (2005 – also available in HD on Disc Ten)
- Disc Five – It’s Bad for Ya (2008 – also available in HD on Disc Ten)
- Disc Six – George Carlin appearance on CBS Talent Scouts (1973)
- Disc Six – George Carlin appearances on The Hollywood Palace (1966-67)
- Disc Six – George Carlin appearance on The Jackie Gleason Show (January 25, 1969)
- Disc Six – The Real George Carlin network TV special (1973)
- Disc Six – APT 2C unaired HBO TV series pilot (1984)
- Disc Six – George Carlin Personal Favorites special from HBO (1997)
- Disc Seven – George Carlin appearance from The Comedy Store (1999)
- Disc Seven – George’s Best Stuff performance compilation (1996)
- Disc Eight – George on George interview (2003)
- Disc Eight – George Carlin appearance at The Comedy & Magic Club (2006)
- Disc Eight – George Carlin: Too Hip for the Room interview with the Archive of American Television (2007)
- Disc Nine (CD) – I Kinda Like it When a Lotta People Die posthumous comedy album (2016 – audio only, includes a rare 1957 self-recording)
- Disc Ten (Blu-ray) – Life Is Worth Losing (2005 – in HD)
- Disc Ten (Blu-ray) – It’s Bad for Ya (2008 – in HD)
Really, just look at that list! If there’s a funny bit you remember from Carlin, it’s probably in this set somewhere. And there’s a whole lot of stuff here that you’ve never seen too. The video and audio quality of course depends upon the vintage of the material, but it’s as good as you’d expect given that and it’s just fine. The package also comes with a commemorative poster (featuring the box set’s cover artwork), and you get a 20-page book of liner notes too with an introduction by comedian Patton Oswald. Really, my only complaint about this set is the packaging. It’s one of those brittle plastic DVD book-type cases (with a cardboard slipcover) where the disc holders are easily broken in shipment so the discs can come loose. A very minor nitpick.
To reiterate… MPI’s George Carlin: Commemorative Collection DVD box set is outstanding. If you love Carlin, this set represents hours and hours of great content and laughs and is worth every single penny. Just put the first special in your player and start it spinning and you’ll be sucked in quick. This box set is like a bag of potato chips. Remember that old TV commercial? “Bet you can’t eat just one!” It’s an absolute must-have for Carlin fans and it’s very highly recommended for comedy fans in general. Don’t miss it.
- Bill Hunt