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George Carlin (2) vs. Barbara Kruger

To decide yesterday‘s contest, I’ll have to point to Jeremy’s comment:

Rembrandt in a walk:

-He believes that “God is in every leaf on every tree”. Most of his greatest paintings are portraits of himself or regular people (as opposed to portraits of kings or Popes, or mythical battles, or etc.) Same for his etchings.

-He believes in embracing variation. Check out especially his later work, which is famously unpolished and is all the more evocative for it. In contrast, Russell spent his whole career trying, and failing, to impose more precision on the foundations of mathematics and language than is possible.

-As a painter, he knows a thing or two about the importance of one’s “model”.

Normally I’d go for any comment that points to my obsessions, but this comment by Jeremy is so clearly doing so, that I’ll have to disqualify it. Also, he didn’t mention Stan. So I’m calling this one for Updike.

Now for today’s bout. I don’t know enough Carlins for that to be an entire category, but George made it in the Comedians category, and he’s up against conceptual artist Barbara Kruger.

If it was up to my friends from high school, Harvey would go for George, and Kenny would go for Barbara. But it’s up to you. Whaddya think?

My first thought is that Carlin should win easily—but, there’s just one thing. Many years ago when I was sick and home from school, I turned on a daytime TV talk show and, who should I see but George Carlin! He was doing a set that was perfectly adapted to his audience. I don’t remember the details but it was things like: Y’know how, when you’re in the supermarket, the cart just spins and spins around? etc. He was doing bits about shopping and doing the laundry and whatever else he thought would work with that audience. What was weird about it was that it was so clearly non-Carlin material, yet it was given the standard Carlin delivery.

At some level this is admirable professionalism—but it also struck me as a bit creepy, almost as if someone released a video of Newt Gingrich giving a stirring soak-the-rich speech to the American Socialists organization, or, umm, I dunno, seeing Ed Wegman give a lecture on research integrity. Put it this way: After seeing his performance on that talk show, I have no doubt that Carlin could give a set that’s perfectly adapted to the Columbia audience—but would we care?

Say what you want about Barbara Kruger—call her a talentless self-promoter with a one-note shtick, whatever—at least you have to admit she won’t compromise.

P.S. As always, here’s the background, and here are the rules.


  1. Jeremy Fox says:

    I was wondering if my pitch for Rembrandt would come off as pandering to the judge. Now I know!

  2. Steen says:


    Could you title the posts like so?
    “George Carlin (2) vs. Barbara Kruger; Russell advances”.
    This seems like one of the more dramatic moments in the tournament, thus far—including last victor in title will make it easier to find for the highlight reel.

    I vote Kruger. Sounds like her work needs some unpacking. Snappy titles/not-too-busy slides, e.g. (Belief + Doubt = Sanity).

  3. Adam C says:

    Carlin. Between the production of Cars and Cars 2, both he (‘Fillmore’) and Paul Newman (‘Doc Hudson’) died. Doc gets a big send off in Cars 2. Fillmore? They just replaced Carlin with an impersonator. The guy deserves a little something to make up for it.

  4. Jonathan (another one) says:

    Philip Roth and Barbara Kruger went to the same high school, although Roth is 12 years older. How did Roth not make this contest?

    One write-in vote for Roth.

  5. zbicyclist says:

    Are there 7 words you can’t say in a seminar? Let’s find out.

  6. Mac says:


    He described his own work as: “I remind you of things you already know, but forgot to laugh at the first time they happened”. Seems like he would have a unique take on whatever topic he was presenting. Also eerily prescient ([1] from 1999, specifically track 2).


  7. Eli Rabett says:

    Carlin would think this whole thing absurd and he just loves absurd.

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