In a newly released hour of commentary made in 2001 called “I Kinda Like It When a Lotta People Die,” the comedian delights in picturing the end of the world.
On Sept. 10, 2001, George Carlin, the greatest political comic in history if measured only by stand-up specials, recorded a bracing hour of social commentary for his new HBO special. The next day, he shelved it.
It wasn’t only the title, “I Kinda Like It When a Lotta People Die,” that seemed in bad taste after nearly 3,000 people were killed a day later in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Mr. Carlin also told a joke about a fart so potent it blew up an airplane. “You know who gets blamed? Osama bin Laden,” Mr. Carlin joked. “The F.B.I. is looking for explosives. They should be looking for minute traces of rice and bok choy.”
If timing is everything, Mr. Carlin had nothing.
Fifteen years later, his lost special is finally being released. (It is on Sirius XM, though it will be for sale as a download or on CD or vinyl on Sept. 16, at Amazon and iTunes, among other outlets.) It will be a revelation for comedy fans nostalgic for the days when you could expect a series of articulate salvos from Mr. Carlin about every two years. This special is not bonus track material. It’s a polished hour of new jokes with a virtuosic centerpiece, an intricate and elusive nearly 10-minute story that inspired its title, firmly in the tradition of Mr. Carlin’s comedy but also a fascinating departure.
Mr. Carlin, who died in 2008, had always been a left-leaning comic whose skepticism of government would be right at home with the Tea Party. In a 1999 special, he even ridiculed airport security as a pointless charade, saying Americans are “always willing to trade away a little of their freedom” in exchange for “the illusion of security.”