George Carlin (1937 – 2008) was, without question, one of America’s most the most innovative and influential comedians. In his career, he won four Grammys, had thousands of loyal fans and even got to meet John Lennon. He was involved in a Supreme Court case for his “Seven Words You Can’t Say on Television” monologue, pushed the limits of free speech and asked his audience to think for themselves, even in four-letter words.
But “Napalm and Silly Putty” (Hyperion, 2001), a New York Times bestseller for 20 weeks, sucks. This long-time George Carlin fan found the book to be an embarrassment, a rip-off and just about everything Carlin attacked in his stand-up routines. But then again, the man had bills to pay and his previous book, “Brain Droppings” (1997) netted a good profit. “Brain Droppings” was also derived from his stand up routines.
Who This Book Is For
This book is not for George Carlin fans because over 90 percent of the content is taken directly from his stand up routines going all the way back to 1970. Carlin fans will not find anything new in here. If they have seen about five HBO specials and heard Carlin’s albums released in the 1970s, then they already have “Naplam and Silly Putty.”
This book was probably intended for people who never heard of George Carlin – or Carlin fans that had really short memories. Carlin not only had fantastic timing and delivery, but he was also an excellent writer. The jokes do read well on paper if you never heard Carlin’s original deliveries on television or on record.
The Book’s Focus
Although the jokes picked to be included in “Napalm & Silly Putty” seem random, most of them do revolve around a theme – looking at the same thing in two different ways. For example, napalm is very much like silly putty, only one can kill people while another can entertain people. And, of course, there are many sprinklings of four-letter words and apostrophes to help indicate Carlin’s New York Irish-Catholic accent.
There are chapters in the book, which also helps to categorize the jokes or at least gives the reader some warning of what will soon follow. Some chapters are made up of random jokes without a central theme and are printed in different fonts. This makes reading easier on the eyes but also uses up a lot of pages. There seems to be more white space than words in this book.
In summary, Carlin fans should skip this book and instead pick up “Last Words: A Memoir” (Free Press, 2009.) But if you’ve never heard of George Carlin, “Napalm and Silly Putty” is a good introduction.