Kyle: One thing that Chris maintains about Bill Cosby that makes him the better comedian is the idea that he is funny as hell while working clean. I understand the sentiment here perfectly. He's clean, meaning he doesn't have to rely on obscene or grotesque words/imagery in order to sell his material to an audience. And it's true, of all the comedians who "work clean," Cosby is one of the funniest.
My counter-argument is that George Carlin never, in his forty-plus years of show-business, had to rely on cursing or depicting obscene comedy. He did it anyway, because he refused to put boundaries on his comedy. He trusted an audience to be able to handle his material, warts and ... mostly warts, actually. And because of it, I felt smarter as an audience member. I felt as if I was being spoken to, not spoken at.
And that really brings me to the big argument for Carlin. What are these comedians remembered for? Sure, there are a select few that remember how wonderful Cosby was during Himself and To My Brother, Russell, Whom I Slept With. But the majority of people remember Cosby from Kodak and Jello commercials (or more accurately, they remember him from the bad impressions of him doing the commercials), or from Kids Say the Darndest Things and possibly Fat Albert. Really, it's a travesty, but it's true.
Meanwhile, Carlin is remembered for countless comedy bits performed live, on-stage, sometimes in cathedrals of show-biz like Carnegie Hall and the Beacon Theatre. "Seven Dirty Words" is the most famous, but everyone who knows of Carlin immediately thinks of their favorite bit. "Losing Things," or "Capital Punishment" or even "Baseball and Football" are staples. And everyone has a different favorite, which just goes to show what kind of longevity he had and the diverse range of material.
Sorry if I'm going off but just like the last debate, I feel strongly about my choice. While Bill Cosby is a family entertainment treasure, George Carlin has his own chapter in the History of Comedy. Possibly his own volume.
How else can I put this? George Carlin made fun of my first name when I was just a child. Look up his bit about goofy boy names, and his chief victims are Todd, Tucker, and Kyle. It's hysterical. And I thought so when I was at that age where you could have killed me with an insult. But I never felt as if George was insulting me. Sure, I have an unfortunately soft name, and I'm cursed with being aware of it. But at the same time, he said it so no one else had to. You can't hold that shit over an old man making an old man grievance. All you can do is laugh and agree.
That's the raw power of George. He was a creative whirlwind, and he couldn't be bothered if you fell behind due to his subject matter or your offended pride. Comedians like Louis C.K. and Bill Hicks followed George along this path of "I don't care what you think of me, this is the truth" and they reaped the creative benefits from it. Whereas there are thousands of crappy open-mic enthusiasts who try their hand at observational, family-friendly humor thanks to Cosby.
There you go. I just found the essential difference. Cosby is a humorist. Carlin was a comedian.