When it comes to comedy, the Carlin family has it infused in their DNA. Whether it was legendary standup George Carlin who changed course of comedy for so many aspiring comics, his daughter Kelly who has brought her unique brand of spoken word to the stage in recent years, they are clearly a talented bunch. The same is true of George’s older brother Patrick, who is quite possibly one of the most interesting people you will ever encounter. Patrick Carlin is a novelist, essayist and humorist who is frequently called upon to remember his legendary brother. His amazing life has taken him from the United States Air Force to The Ed Sullivan Show to The Gong Show to the comedy stage and beyond. At 81 years young, it seems he is just warming up! He has recently released an eclectic new book, “¿Quien F!#kin Sabe?,” which is a collection of quotes, poems, thoughts, and questions from imaginary folks that he allows to hang out up in his head. As you can imagine it is a wild ride! Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon sat down with Patrick Carlin to discuss his incredible life, legendary brother, the creation of “¿Quien F!#kin’ Sabe?” and much more!
You come from a family very well known for its humor. How did comedy first come into your life?
I guess it was early on with the other kids on the street, you know? Definitely grammar school stuff. That is when I saw a little poem. It was the first time that I had ever started paying attention to poetry. I had been kicked out of regular school and sent to boarding school. I was kicked out of second grade for being an asshole! Our dormitory was full of kids from 3rd to 6th grade. Even though we were only seven years old, there were some great minds in there. I remember sitting down one day and looking up at a door and seeing a poem. It read”Here I sit in thoughtful bliss, listening to the rippling piss. Now and then, a fart is heard, followed by a falling turd.” It was just a beautiful thing, ya know! There were also parodies they would do on things like “Old King Cole was a merry old soul with a rawhide belly and a rubber asshole. Two brass balls and an electric cock, gave those girls a hell of a shock!” You picked up a lot of things from that and you talked with the other kids. You progressed from that to hanging on the corner. Like George [Carlin] often said, everybody on that corner was funny! You know what I mean! What era did you grow up in, Jason?
Well, I was born in 1976. I was a bicentennial baby.
Alright! That was a good year, man!
I have no complaints!
Yeah, congrats on that! So, you had good music and everything. Did you grow up in the city or the suburbs?
My parents split up when I was young and went in separate directions, literally. Growing up I had a solid mix of both. It was the best of both worlds.
Yeah, so you know what I am talking about! You were the guy who said “Get your mother drawers out of my God damn glovebox, man!” [laughs] That was the type of stuff that George excelled at, man! He stood on that stew and could really knock people out. It was beautiful!
You certainly have an interesting background. Who would you cite as some of your biggest influences?
We were into Lenny Bruce and Lord Buckley. They were great! I got into most musical stuff through George. The funny thing is that I got into Lenny when I was stationed away from him. We found the same was true with a lot of rythm and blues tunes as well. Our comedy taste was right down the line, man. We really enjoyed each other. I got exposed to comedy first in school, on the corner, in the service and then through the different jobs had. I had so many crazy bosses and you always remember that stuff! I worked on “The Gong Show” and that was beautiful, man! It was so beautiful, back around 1978. We had been down in Trinidad, knocked around and all, in a nice manner! [laughs] I was the head pool cleaner at my wife’s mother’s little hotel in Trinidad. We were living good then. She would just clap your hands and a guy would pop up and say “Yes, madam!” We got in with the local culture and had a lot of fun there. Music and ganja! That was a happy time!
We came back from that and did a little thing in Vermont at a school for kids who were not living up to mom and dad’s expectations. I am sure you knew some of those guys, Jason! Now, you said you were born in 1976. These guys had already been around since 1960. They all had long hair and all of the boys had pierced ears, you know? It was a wonderful school and these kids were happy they had been kicked out of prep school. They were free souls. We came from that and went out to the mill. When it closed, we came out to “The Gong Show”. It was a lot of fun. We would write these intos like “Here is a guy who said no to the corn soup when he saw the waitress was slipping her sneakers back on!” [laughs] there was a lot of stuff like that! Chuck [Barris] would like them and was a really wonderful guy to work for! You know how when you’re working for someone, people always want to hear bad things about that person? I got one of those calls about Chuck one time and I said “you are up the creek with me, pal!” The guy was a champ, he was so funny! He was so funny, man! One morning I said “Listen Chuck, do you want me to get you a cup of coffee, man?” He said “Patrick, no. You are not servile enough!” [laughs] He was dynamite! Then I went from there to driving a limo, which was a lot of fun. Then I was a disc jockey out in the desert on KKZZ in Lancaster. It was Frank Zappa territory! It was a country station and a new program director had just come in from one of those big power stations in Phonenix of something. I was out there doing my Saturday morning thing of playing old time Bee Gees! Surprsingly, this was my last day at work! [laughs] He said to me “I thought this wasa country station, man?” I said, “Well, yeah it is. I just played “The Cowboy Song” by Thin Lizzy!” Then he said “Adios!” [laughs] It all worked out because I left there and ended up at KROQ in Pasadena.They were local andI did a thing called “The Quick News”. On Sunday, my wife and I would do a thing called “Patrick and The Herb Lady”. It had no delay!
I bet that made a few people nervous!
Oh, it did but it was a wonderful, wonderful experience. From there, I ended up on the Alan Thicke show, which was called “Thicke of the Night.”. That was in 1983. We want really writers but researchers who hung out hallway. If you are a writer you cost a lot of money but if you were a researcher it only cost half as much! [laughs] You know how the big world works! That was another cool guy to work for! He was into the Red Hot Chili Peppers, even back then! He didn’t have a chance in the world because he was going up against Johnny Carson. But he had great guests! He had Richard Belzer on there as a regular. He had guys like Charles Fliescher, Gilbert Gottfried, Arsenio Hall and Fred Willard. He was out there! He had his own scene! It was a fun show to work!
Did you have any idea that the road you took would lead you to these incredible places?
Not at all. Not at all. And I didn’t think I would be doing anything on the air. I did “The Ed Sullivan Show” with George way way back when he was first freakin’ out! It was when his hair was first growing out, it had to be back around 1969. He was writing this thing called Councilman Karl K. Kopout. It was a year when I must’ve been 30 Democratic candidates. He came up with this thing when we were living in Ventura County. He asked me if I wanted to go to New York with him to be the guy reading off the clipboard.I said “George, I am a car salesman for Christ sakes!” He said “No, no! You can do it!” The next thing I knew we were on our way to go do “The Ed Sullivan Show,” man! We really had a ball. We did the Playboy Club as a warm-up the night before the show. We were following Professor Irwin Corey! I loved that guy! He was up there giving a lecture, doing his schtick! The guys at the table in front of us where really white bread dudes with buzz cuts. They must have said something the ol’ professor didn’t like and the next thing you know,he is yelling “Nazis! Nazis!!!” He chased the guys out of The Playboy Club! [laughs] George and I followed that and had a wondeful time! We spent the whole next day getting loaded, smoking and goofing around the old neighborhood. We did the show together and it was great, man.
It’s funny, ya know, I just let shit unwind. Ya know what I’m sayin? You can’t be pushing or knocking around. When I worked on the the Alan Thicke show, they cut my salary in half because the show was fading and shit. I’m the kind of guy that when you fuck with me and I say goodbye to a company, I do it in a way that you’re going to remember it! I’ve always been that way, man! No matter where I’ve quit. I set a whole lot of ship to these producers and people. I started cleaning out my desk because I knew I was fuckin’ history. I had just called them all motheruckers and everything else! I am cleaning out my desk and Alan comes in and says “Patrick, leave it there. We can have you appear on the show and then I can pay you six hundred dollars or whatever it is to make up the difference.” He kept me on the show, man! [laughs] I would say stuff like “I shaved my beard and sold it to a couple of hippies for $400 dollars an ounce!” I’ve always had fun doing that stuff and I’ve always been at ease about standing up and shooting the shit! I don’t have to go vomit before I go out on stage or anything! It’s like being on the corner of 123rd and Amsterdam. , I can put ship together now and I will be out pumping the book!
Speaking of the book, tell us a little about “¿Quien F!#kin’ Sabe?” and what made you bring this thing to life!
I am so happy you asked that, Jason. I was thinking about that this morning! It was around December of 2008, about 6 months after George had died. I had always kept these yellow pads and I would sit down in the morning an write something. For example “Coach Rip Scrotum says: Concussions — getting them or giving them, they are fun either way!” I would write these different things done and they had mounted up. I had these folders and I started going through them, clipping stuff out. That is when I noticed that some names popped up more than others. Mr. Romance, Allison Wonderland, these are names I would give people after I would have a thought that would seem to come from that facet of my head. I got a good cast of these God damn people and I had the little piles of different stuff for each one.
They weren’t together but one day I came up with a paper called “The Daily Shit”. I gave them all different assignments. Mr. Romance, he is the relationships editor. He might say “If you aren’t getting into her knickers, it’s not much of a relationship!” As the news people say, here is a sidebar on that! I gave this book to one of the guys from my neighborhood. He is younger than I am and I sued to hang around with his Dad. Anyway, he is a dude and he is a head. He writes in and he says “If I met Mr. Romance 30 years ago, I would have saved a lot of money on divorces! Gotta go, the reefer man is at the door!” [laughs] These are my readers and my reviews that are starting to come in. It just all fell into place. The people in the book have poems that they write. Allison Wonderland is a little space cadet. I mean, she is out there. She is in charge of organics and herbal stuff and wonders stuff like “How come when narcs make a big marijuana raid, they don’t distribute the weed to needy hippy families!” [laughs] Isn’t she a nice girl? She is a good soul! [laughs] She has reminiscences that are a little bit bizarre. SHe recalls when she was rooming in Hollywood and writing on a sitcom, Jesus was her neighbor and also writing on a sitcom. They used to watch TV together. So, she has been out there, Jason! She has been out there pretty far! [laughs] She writes writes of The Big Electron, who George was also a fan of, the big electron who is actually the universe and does not give a shit about Mississippi beating Alabama in the big game, no matter how hard people pray!
These characters are there and there are quotes that they have and then there is another section of the book of the different times I bumped into reefer back during my drinking days! They are interesting little anecdotes. I like to write and I wrote a novel prior to this called “Highway 23”. It had those paragraphs in it where if you are walking down Route 66, I tell you what the billboard say or how the flowers look as you walk along waiting for that Mercury to pull over and let you in. It is that kind of a novel, which was fun to write but these things all came to me through reefer. I haate to sound like an ad for it but it is the truth. It is supposed to be such an evil thing but I have found it to be a very, very helpful creative thing for me as an individual. I had been an alcohol drinker from 1946, when I was 15, until 1964 when I turned 33, when I blew a .24 and cops where bringing other cops to see me! [laughs] I had to hang up the drinking shoes, I am Irish! [laughs] I did two years of no alcohol after that and then I got with reefer without the alcohol fumes in my brain because George came west in 1966. I had voted for Barry Goldwater and the full rightwing trip. I was looking for a John Birch place to join. We started smoking and listening to Bob Dylan and my brian did a complete flip! I became a lefty! Yoooweee! [laughs] I realized those people were fuckin’ me and I went for McGovern. It changed our way of living. From there, I got with writing as a advocation and it got to be more and more of a thing I can’t help doing! It keeps me sane, man! That was the fun of this book! I have a lot of different guys in this “¿Quien F!#kin’ Sabe?,” which means “Who Fucking Knows?”. These guys is 47811 Up Above, we actually had a guy like this in the neighborhood but that wasn’t his number. Yeah, a guy who dropped his name because he was up the river so much! He has a philosophy too! You know, my niece Kelly read this too. Yeah man! She did Jung and all that stuff at UCLA…
Yeah! We actually had the opportunity to interview Kelly Carlin earlier this year and she was terrific!
Oh, ok! Then you know how smart she is! She is wonderful! She was talking to me about “¿Quien F!#kin’ Sabe?” and she was saying “Wow! There is stuff in there like Zen!” She was actually so happy with the poems and that they actually went somewhere! I hadn’t set out for it but it was like it spilled out! I also have a reclusive writer in the book, Jackson Bach. He says he doesn’t write for the money, he writes what he wants and if anybody else likes it that is a fuckin’ bonus! The voice of 47811 Up Above says “I don’t write for anything, I write for therapy. It keeps me semi-sane.” On the fringe of sanity, yeah! [laughs] It is such a wonderful outlet and I jut enjoy doing it!
Do you have any plans for future releases?
Yes! I have a monumental underway about the place that George used to hang out called the Moreland Tavern but in my book it is called Quinns. I got the kinda guys hanging in it that would have been the type of guys hanging in it in 1976 or 1977, when The Bronx was burning and things were active. They are just hanging there, living their everyday lives, checking the Jets scores and meeting chicks. It’s gritty, yet it is a different concept! It is one of these things that Faulkner should be writing! [laughs] I’ve got this little hippy chick and she is on the run because they busted her in a stash house in Greenwich Village and she has to stay out of the country for seven years. I’ve got her on the run in the Himalayas, talking to people and smoking good stuff here and there. It is really like a big jigsaw puzzle on your library table, if ya know what I mean!
What other projects do you have in the works that we should be on the lookout for in the short term?
The real thing I am doing now and it is amazing how stuff presents itself is I want to get out and start doing stuff on stages and stuff, small places. I am talking 200, 300 or 400 seaters. I am really enjoying myself and I have all of this material lined up. I am using it here and there and I am on the radio a little bit with this and that. I am looking forward to putting this stuff together and getting it out there. I would also have the books, poster and my t-shirts that say “Hopelessness is not a bummer!”. There is a reason for that slogan! It is an upbeat message! I am thinking about doing all of that here in the Northeast, just small joints, whatever is around! I did one locally and I got carried away, man! I was up there for an hour and forty minutes just shooting the shit! [laughs] I am an awful bullshitter, man. I remember a lot of goofy shit and I love talkin’ about it!
You definitely have some great stories, Patrick! It is a lot of fun to listen to you recount it all!
I am glad! It is fun doing it and a lot of stuff that is in the book is fun for me to read. It is stuff that I could never memorize because it is weighty of a thing. That part is just one part of everything I have been writing.
We have talked about your life, your brother and Kelly, who are all tremendous people in my book. I was curious to know what the best lesson that people can take away from the Carlin family?
Wow! Being relaxed and being totally and accepting of what the other members are up to and doing. Also, being supportive in every way you can, including if you have a brother who needs ten grand for some kind of a problem and there is no kinda bullshit attached. It’s like “What do you need? Big bills or twenties my friend?” Let me tell ya man, it is a lot like the time we were doing The Ed Sullivan Show. It must have been around St. Patrick’s Day and we always enjoy a festive thing. We were in Pittsburg and I dropped him off. He was just starting to look shaggy and grow the hair, as I mentioned. He had a little thing of beads on him and a flowered shirt. I dropped him off because he said “I have to get a 6 pack. Just go around the block.” We had a rental car and I said “Cool, man!” Just as I drop him off, six burly Irish dudes with those green plastic derbies go surging in the door with him! I thought to myself “Holy jumpin’ Christ!” I couldn’t get around the block quick enough and I thought I needed to get in there and start sluggin’ people and shit! I finally make it in there and George is having a beer with the guys! [laughs] I couldn’t believe it but that was George, man! It is being ready to jump in at any time and in any manner for one another. We are all a tight knit family! We don’t just get together and pose for a picture yearly. We may not see each other for stretches of time but it is a gang-like feeling. That is what we told the kids when they were little! Our boys were twenty months apart. We said “Listen, man! You are in the gang with me and Mom! When you go to school, you don’t use Daddy’s words! You will get in trouble for that! And when the copper comes to show you how to cross the street, you don’t mention that Mom and Dad roll their own cigarettes!” They all knew that! [laughs] It is really a wonderful feeling. George always knew where I was at and he accepted me totally as I was. I went along with everything he came up with. He said “Do you want to go see a shrink sometime? I have a lot of money.” I said “Cool!” He didn’t mean it in a hurtful manner and we had a lot of fun. I slipped into see the shrink and told him where I was at. The shrink said “I don’t want to take your brother’s money for nothing.” I said “What’s up?” The shrink said “There is nothing wrong with you!” [laughs] I said “Hey, man! Weren’t you listening to me for the last week!” He said “Oh yeah, you are never going anywhere but you aren’t crazy!” George really turned me on to a lot of good shit and truly enriched my life for seventy one years. He was fun, fun, fun! He was never ever judgmental! I mean, I know where I am at! I will give you my resume! I will give you four years in the Air Force: Airman Basic, Airman Third, Airman Basic, Airman Third, Airman Second, Airman First for ten days but then court marshaled and back to Airman Third, court marshaled again and busted back to Airman Basic, promoted back to Airman Third and discharged after four years with an honorable discharge, no good conduct medal and no reenlistment talk! [laughs] That is just a microcosm of my whole work record! I am just the guy who gets stuck in your throat!
It seems to be working out for ya!
Everything works out but we did have and still do have a very, very tight and natural family cohesion. That is what I think is the key to happiness!
Just one more question for you, Patrick. Where is the best place for people to find out more about you online?
Oh yeah! I got some girls up at a place called The Turning Mill and now I have an actual website! It is a funny son of a bitch with lots of stuff in it! You can go to the “Buy” section if you want but you don’t have to because there is funny stuff all over it. The website is www.patrickcarlin.com! I am so glad you reminded me of that because they did a great job on it! Just like they did on the cover of that book! They knocked me out with that! I gave them a little doodle that is on one of the pages right under an article by 47811 Up Above who tells ya “How to pass the ink blot test if you want to get out of the psychiatric ward!”
That is a pretty god teaser for everyone! [laughs]
[laughs] You are a good guy, Jason! It is as much fun talkin’ to you as it is hanging on the corner!
I appreciate you time, Patrick! It has been great talking to you and I look forward to spreading the word on all of you work!
Thanks so much, Jason. I can’t thank you enough! Take care!
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.