George Carlin finds place for his 'stuff' at Jamestown comedy center

May 12, 2016

Credit Kelly Carlin

Comedian, actor, social critic, author...and now Jamestown resident. The personal archives of George Carlin will have a permanent new home at the National Comedy Center.

Center Executive Director Journey Gunderson said Carlin's daughter Kelly has donated about seven steamer trunks of materials, representing the comedian's 50-year career.

"This came about by talking with Kelly Carlin about the National Comedy Center and our vision to celebrate comedy in Jamestown," said Gunderson. "She came to town for our groundbreaking in August. The relationship grew from there until she decided that this really would be a great place for her dad's stuff."

Carlin, of course, did a now famous stand-up routine about his "stuff." Gunderson said the donated materials include extensive creative files, annotated set lists, handwritten journals, scrapbooks, awards, letters, clothing, arrest records and countless hours of video and audio recordings containing, both released and unreleased material, to the Center.

"We are honored to be the new home for George Carlin's stuff. There are few stand-ups today who wouldn't credit George Carlin as an influence,"said Gunderson. "He changed the face of stand-up comedy. He really changed the game and he's arguably one of the most influential stand-up comedians of all time."

Carlin began his professional career in radio at KJOE, Shreveport, LA in 1956 at the age of 19 while serving in the U.S. Air Force. The turning point in his career came in Fort Worth, TX in 1959 on KXOL. Together with newsman Jack Burns, he started developing comedy routines for an eventual nightclub act.

According to daughter Kelly, after splitting with Burns, Carlin spent about a year working in nightclubs. However, it was folk clubs and coffeehouses where he developed his irreverent counterculture routines for which he is most known.

The Indian Sergeant, Wonderful Wino and the Hippy Dippy Weatherman were all born during this period. Carlin's "Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television" also developed during this time. After that, the rest - as they say -  was history.

One of George Carlin's set lists for the "David Letterman Show"
Credit Kelly Carlin

In 1965, Carlin began to get extensive TV exposure. He later released his first album, “FM” & “AM,” which won a Grammy Award after “going gold.”

To date, Carlin’s 14 HBO specials have garnered three Emmy nominations and six CableAce awards. He picked up two additional Emmy nominations in the early 1990s playing the part of Mister Conductor in 45 episodes of the critically acclaimed PBS children’s show, “Shining Time Station.”

Before his death in 2008, Carlin ventured into acting and also publish several books.

A taste of the materials donated to the National Comedy Center - unreleased audio from Carlin - can be found on the Center's website: nationalcomedycenter.org. The entire collection will be available to the public when the center's museum experience opens in 2017.

Gunderson also said Kliph Nesteroff, author of The Comedians: Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels and the History of American Comedy has been hired as chief curator for the center's forthcoming museum experience.