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The Death of a Comic

We need to laugh more. The Bible says laughter is good medicine. It really is. That’s why we love comics so much. I grew up watching The Bob Newhart Show and The Mary Tyler Moore Show with my parents every week. I still love the classics: The Dick Van Dyke Show, Leave It to Beaver, Get Smart, and that “it really makes you think classic,” The Three Stooges.

Yep, we love our comedy and we love our comics.

That’s what makes this day in history so sad. It was nine years ago today – it’s hard to believe it’s been that long – that George Carlin died. The 71-year-old comedian died of heart failure.

Carlin made his first appearance on The Tonight Show in 1962. He became known as a clean-cut, conventional comic. But around 1970, that all changed.

Carlin reinvented himself as one who disdained all things conventional. He became a biting critic and commentator in a successful effort to appeal to a younger crowd. In 1973, the FCC held the comic’s famous routine “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television” to be “indecent,” and the FCC order banning its broadcast was upheld by the United States Supreme Court.

This did not curtail Carlin’s rise to fame. In 1975, he was the first guest host on Saturday Night Live. Two years later, he starred in the first of a series of 14 comedy specials for HBO. Carlin continued to perform his HBO specials and his live comedy gigs into the early 21st century.

No, Carlin’s brand of humor wasn’t to my liking. He became too distasteful for me – and millions of others. But he always had his following, and it was a loyal following, to be sure.

Why? Because we need to laugh. Even if what we are laughing at isn’t that funny, even if it’s rather crude – we still need to laugh.

So, while I don’t miss the comedy of George Carlin, I do miss what he brought a generation of Americans. He brought what we need now more than ever. He brought laughter.

The Rushmore Report: Top 10 TV Shows of All Time – What This Tells Says About Us

A few years ago, TV Guide conducted a national survey which produced a list of the 50 most popular TV shows of all time. The list was restricted to regularly scheduled series, and therefore does not include sports or movies. Below is a list of the top 10 shows. As you read the list, something should jump out at you – something that says a lot about us.

Here’s the list, along with the network and years the shows ran.

1. Seinfeld (NBC, 1989-1998)

2. I Love Lucy (CBS, 1951-1957)

3. The Honeymooners (CBS, 1955-1956)

4. All in the Family (CBS, 1971-1979)

5. The Sopranos (HBO, 1999-2007)

6. 60 Minutes (CBS, 1968-present)

7. Late Show with David Letterman (CBS, 1993-2015)

8. The Simpsons (Fox, 1989-present)

9. The Andy Griffith Show (1960-1968)

10. Saturday Night Live (NBC, 1975-present)

How many of those shows would you have on your list? More importantly, did you catch anything that really jumps out about these shows?

Seven out of ten are comedies.

Audrey Hepburn, one of Hollywood’s most iconic stars, said, “I love people who make me laugh. I honestly think it’s the thing. Like most people, I like to laugh. It cures a multitude of ills. It’s probably the most important thing in a person.”

The Bible says, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22). Look around you and you will find a lot of crushed, dried up bones. We are a fallen people who live in a fallen world. And 70 percent of Americans agree we are on the wrong track to do anything about it.

I would argue that laughter is a sign that God is at work, in your life, your church, and especially your marriage. King David wrote, “Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them'” (Psalm 126:2).

I have been married for a third of a century. Through all the challenges and in the midst of all the blessings, one thing has remained constant. Beth and I laugh – a lot. We laugh at others. We laugh at animals. We laugh at ourselves. We have laughed at many of you! We laugh – a lot. And that’s a good thing.

The same God who inspired John 3:16 inspired the verses about laughter. People are starving for laughter. How else can you explain The Simpsons coming in ahead of Gunsmoke on the list? It’s simple – people want to laugh.

I once knew a man who never laughed or smiled. I asked him if he was happy. He said, “Sure!” I responded, “Then tell your face!”

If you are walking with God, you will be blessed. And if you are blessed, you will be happy. And if you are happy, your face will eventually find out. And then you will smile. And then you’ll laugh. And suddenly – the world will be a better place.