Shining Time Station Wish You Were Here

Shining Time Station: Mr. Conductor & his sister in One of the Family

“Most everyone refers to George Carlin as a comedian, which I believe to be slightly misleading. The man was a teacher, with a great gift to pass his ideas and observations through the use of comedy” – vlpod’s YouTube comment on It’s Bad for Ya! – 2008 (Part 7 of 7)

Everyone took a moment today to remember George Carlin. Some people scoured YouTube for Carlin from every era: the scrubbed, black-and-white ’60s Carlin in a suit as Al Sleet, the Hippie-Dippie Weatherman,  the shaggy-haired, FCC-infuriating Carlin performing the immortal 7 Words You Can’t Say on Television of the 70’s, the talkin’-like-he’s-from-the-‘hood Place for My Stuff Carlin of the ’80s, cab driver “George O’Grady” Carlin of the ’90s, and finally, the vitriolic, white-haired, Old Fuck (“not an Old Fart, but an Old Fuck, mind you!”) Carlin of the new millenium. This was my favorite Carlin. Now he’s gone, and the nation is just this much stupider; there’s this much less of a chance for people to question what’s around them. That’s how I felt all day.

Out of all the balding, acerbic little digital ghosts that paced around my screen today, there was one iteration of George Carlin in particular that put me weirdly at peace after a day of unrest. Mr. Conductor from Shining Time Station:

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Until today, I never even knew that this version of George Carlin ever existed. And that’s the thing; we always find ourselves researching people after they’re gone; hitting up their Wikipedia page, finding old interviews, watching clips. So he’s an idea: every week, pick one person who inspires you and research the shit out of them. Don’t wait ’til they die to learn what they’ve been up to, what you’ve been missing out on – be there and support them while they’re still out there. You have the entire internet at your fingertips – Carlin would probably tell you to enjoy that while it lasts.

9 Responses to “Shining Time Station Wish You Were Here”

  1. Andy Says:

    and in that note, here’s a bit of music that fits in just perfectly

    George Carlin would have approved

  2. Jami Says:

    The only reason I know that he was on that show (and even when I mentioned it everyone swore up and down that it wasn’t him, though it obviously was) is because my younger brother was obsessed with that show.

  3. Zoetica Says:

    Lovely post for a lovely man. You had a good run, George. Well done.

  4. Amanda Says:

    Shining Time Station was the first time I ever saw Carlin. When years later I saw some stand up I was shocked to see Mr Conductor swearing! He has a bit about kids in “Napalm and Silly Putty” where he says that he’s allowed to say what he wants about kids because “I was Mr. Fucking Conductor.”

    BTW – the other Mr Conductor was Ringo Star. In the show the two diminutive conductors were cousins.

  5. Tequila Says:

    I remember this well…mainly cause it was on before Reading Rainbow in my area. Both are part of an era when kids shows didn’t suck. The show is worth watching due to the fact you see a totally different side of Carlin…one part Mister Rogers and one part wise adult who doesn’t talk down to you like an idiot. Very odd mix for those unaware but if you think about it…it’s ALWAYS been there in his work.

    It was mixed in with Thomas The Tank Engine stuff…and guess who was a narrator for the US version? Yup…Carlin himself. So really a generation of kids grew up in some way with Carlin as their guide to the world around them.

    From an interview with Rick Siggelkow…co-creator and producer of the show.

    Q:Back to Ringo and George, I get the impression that they were really into playing their roles and having a lot of fun. Did they ever share these feelings with you?

    RS:Yes, we all had fun. I like to say that if you’re not having fun producing a kids show, you’re doing something wrong. They both had a lot of ideas they liked to try out with the character and I think they each liked the magical powers Mr. Conductor had. It sounds trite to say they were reliving some aspects of their own childhoods, but I think there was an element of that at work. The Mr. Conductor shoots with Ringo and George were always exciting because of who they were and also because we were pushing the matte technology into places no other show had gone.

    Q:Given George Carlin’s mature comedy background, can you tell us how he became the next Mr. Conductor and storyteller for the series?

    RS:When Ringo left the show we were faced with a problem. The parents from that generation of children grew up with the Beatles and their music and held Ringo in high regard. Who else was out there that held that same appeal? Mick Jagger? (laughs). We were looking for someone from that same period that had a connection with the parents. That is how Britt and I chose George Carlin.

    We sent him a few Thomas episodes and a script for a test reading, and when we heard his lines it all made sense to have him become the new Mr. Conductor and storyteller.

    George is renowned for his off-color humor in his comedy acts, but there’s a whole other side of him that people don’t realize. In addition to having a great voice, he’s very smart and is a brilliant storyteller.

  6. bbullock Says:

    I always thought it a bit of a loss when Carlin was replaced by Ringo Starr, for whatever reason, as Mr. Conductor. It just wasn’t the same.

  7. Alice Says:

    George Carlin was INDEED the superior Mr. Conductor. And superior other things, too, but I’m inclined to think that this role was his most noble achievement.

  8. David Forbes Says:

    My first exposure to Carlin came from watching said show. When my parents saw that he was playing Mr. Conductor, they laughed for a very, very long time before smiling knowingly. They didn’t reveal exactly why they found it so funny until a few years later.

    A good post. Carlin will be missed. He was a true cynic, in the best and most old-fashioned sense of the word.

  9. Will Says:

    So he’s an idea: every week, pick one person who inspires you and research the shit out of them. Don’t wait ’til they die to learn what they’ve been up to, what you’ve been missing out on – be there and support them while they’re still out there.

    I tried to do this with my internet crush – Erin McKean – but I ended up getting lost researching the different sleeve templates of McCall’s sewing patterns from the 50’s. Now I have deep opinions over cuffed blouses and I’m no closer to my love.