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George Carlin was a unique source of financial advice

Comedian overcame $3 million IRS debt.

By Karen Datko Sep 26, 2009 3:13AM

Irreverent, hilarious, provocative and profane -- all were qualities of the great George Carlin, who died Sunday from heart failure. But who knew that Carlin was also a good source of financial advice?


What else would you expect from the comedian who so well understood our fascination with materialism, as demonstrated by his "A Place for My Stuff"? ("Bouncing Back" at Bouncing Back from Bankruptcy, one of many Carlin fans who mourned his passing online, provides a link to the "stuff" routine. Considering it's Carlin, the language is only slightly off-color.)


It was also Carlin who said, "Why is the man (or woman) who invests all your money called a broker?" 


(DigitalDreamDoor.com provides a list of Carlin quotes -- as well as a list of many incorrectly attributed to him.)



In a Bankrate.com interview in 2001, Carlin described how he came to his financial senses -- in the process he also refined his wit -- and overcame a staggering $3 million IRS debt he had accumulated while abusing drugs. At one point during his financial rehabilitation, he served as a spokesman for MCI. Was that a cop-out for an anti-establishment guy? In a simpler world, he said, "I would go from campfire to campfire, dragging my stone tablet of jokes around for people to see in exchange for pieces of meat. It would be a nicer system. But that's not the way it is."


The way it was is that he worked hard for 20 years to get the IRS monkey off his back. As Key Bell notes at Don't Mess With Taxes, he told Esquire: "It made me a way better comedian. Because I had to stay out on the road and I couldn't pursue that movie career, which would have gone nowhere, and I became a really good comic and a really good writer." Amen.


At the time of the Bankrate interview, Carlin said, he was earning $2.5 million a year. He described his method for maximizing income from shows -- control the venue and the ticket revenue -- and his passive income from books, HBO specials and videos.


Since living in the woods isn't an option, he said, "we all make adjustments to our value system according to our needs and what we can tolerate."


Carlin spent his final years harping on his favorite topics -- religion and corporate America. ("It's a big club, and you ain't in it," he said.) His words about the state of the American worker may seem all the more relevant now: "It's called the American dream because you have to be asleep to believe it."

He also was true to his mission. "I think it's the duty of the comedian to find out where the line is drawn and cross it deliberately," he once said.


Published June 23, 2008

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