So in the past few days I've been shitting my pants. As I wrote last week, the book's title is based on a George Carlin quote, but when I checked the source, he doesn't use those words. He says "a vulgar act" and "the people's art." Did I misread "act" for "art"? And then title something for it?
The. Fucking. Title.
All that kept me in line was that (a) in this day of cutting and pasting when I found the quote I more than likely did that rather than retype it, and (b) the layout of the page is different now, which might have meant an intervening edit. But seriously: the title? The proofs are coming from the press very soon: was I going to have to cross out the "r" for the "c"? I'm not changing the title, but the hommage-ness of it just disappears.
Then I come across this interview in Psychology Today, and the following quote:
Self-expression is a hallmark of an artist, of art, to get something off one’s chest, to sing one’s song. So that element is present in all art. And comedy, although it is not one of the fine arts—it’s a vulgar art, it’s one of the people’s arts, it’s the spoken word, the writing that goes into it is an art form—it’s certainly artistry. So self-expression is the key to even standing up and saying, "Hey, listen to me."
So this is an idea that he was entertaining at the time as a new way of articulating the inevitable "what is stand-up comedy" question. Thus I googled the shit out of ["george carlin" "a vulgar art"] and he was saying it, or quoted as saying it with vague attribution, all the goddamn time his last year, like here and here and here and finally, in Last Words, his sort-of memoir compiled from interviews with Tony Hendra:
Long ago I described my job as being "a foole": that's still what I do. Once, this kind of comedy was called the people's art, a vulgar art. Maybe all comedy is.
Watch (or download or read the transcript the New York Public Library's tribute to George Carlin timed for the launch of Last Words. Or this thing.