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MPI Home Video presents
George Carlin: Life Is Worth Losing (2006)

"Here's another of our spiritually uplifting activities. We don't do this one any more, but it used to be really big. Human sacrifice. I miss that."
- George Carlin

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: February 28, 2007

Stars: George Carlin
Director: Rocco Urbisci

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (language)
Run Time: 01h:13m:29s
Release Date: February 27, 2007
UPC: 030306781396
Genre: comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

With reverential nods to Lenny Bruce aside, George Carlin was certainly once the king of counter culture humor, back in the day when comedy albums actually sold well and there wasn't the glut of all those nearly identical standup acts that began in earnest in the 1980s, effectively diluting the funny pool. With the implied notion that any wiseass with a microphone could spew wry observational gags mixed in with a few shock-value obscenities, the field became a vast wasteland of too many faces doing too many bits that sounded too similar. But there was always Carlin.

The thing is, there has been a real shift in Carlin's approach to comedy in the last decade or so, with a decidedly more coarse and angry take on things, and Life Is Worth Losing, recorded at New York's Beacon Theater for HBO in 2005, finds the comedian older, substance-free and apparently even more agitated and upset. There has always an intelligence to his comedy, but as of late he has taken to vitriolic ranting more like that chaotically unstable uncle we all seem to have. Not that vitriolic ranting can't be funny—and Carlin has always taken great pleasure in the nuances of the English language—but it sometimes seems less like a comedy act and more like plain, unexpurgated anger.

And we do get some of the trademark Carlin wordplay—from the opening "modern man" buzzword poem to his descriptions of fat Americans—gene-spliced into rants about such unpleasant human tendencies such as genocide, necrophilia ("Now there's a hobby for you"), suicide and even autoerotic asphyxiation. Maybe it's no surprise that the stage is festooned with a number of oversized tombstones as props.

His suicide chunk seems to ramble a bit as if he is still working through the material, but builds to a Carlin-perfect payoff, as does his explosive bitch slap about governmental control—which while maybe not "comedy" per se—is delivered with a great amount of ugly honesty. And that's been something that has always made this guy such a watchable performer, even as he has become more cynical and well, cranky.

Some of the material, like his discussion of what he politely refers to as "posthumous female transplants", is close to old school Carlin, employing bits using words that sometimes make people squirm. It's shock value funny in a way, but I can throw him a bone because he sort of invented (or at least mainstreamed) the whole concept. The set seriously waffles in tone a few times, closing with what ultimately becomes a semi-serious explanation of Carlin's take on the meaning of life, and it's almost as if his act is some kind of blunt-force therapy session for him.

There's funny material here, but the mood is very dark and I don't see him getting happier anytime soon.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Video presentation is 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, and the image quality is pleasing without being especially remarkable either way. It's not a very brightly colored set to begin with—Carlin is in black, the background is a supposed nighttime skyline, and the stage is filled with dark tombstone props—but edges are sharp and well-defined.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: The sole audio track is 2.0 stereo. Obviously not much here to create that immersing live setting that the right 5.1 mix can do for comedy (see Jeff Cesario: You Can Get a Hooker Tomorrow Night), but the presentation on this disc provides clear voice quality for Carlin that is never buried by audience sounds.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 13 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: No extras at all, not even a set of unrelated MPI trailers. The disc is cut into 13 chapters, with optional English subtitles.

Extras Grade: F


Final Comments

With Carlin getting seemingly crustier and crankier as the years go by, Life Is Worth Losing paints the counter culture artist as a variation on that crazy older uncle you see once a year who always speaks his mind at the dinner table. Definitely worth a rental for faithful Carlin fans, but as standup for the uninitiated his blunt rap may just sound bitter and cynical dusted with bursts of spot-on insight.

I found myself laughing quite a bit, and that's always a good indicator for me with regards to appreciating a comedian or not, but then again I tend to gravitate towards material that pokes at things we're not supposed to laugh at. Maybe I'm destined to be that "crazy uncle"...


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