The new Judd Apatow/Michael Bonfiglio documentary series "George Carlin's American Dream" on HBO tells us much about the comedian, including his love for marijuana.
Carlin's mother Mary fled his violent, alcoholic father with his older brother Patrick when George was just a baby. He grew up a latchkey kid with a single working mother in what he calls "White Harlem" (Morningside Heights) in New York City, spending a lot of time alone. He watched Danny Kaye, Bob Hope and Red Skelton movies and emulated Kaye's facile facial and vocal expressions, while listening to comedians like Jack E. Leonard on the radio and deciding he wanted to be one.
It could be said of Carlin, and our society, that the Catholic Church no longer letting the wheat in communion wafers go moldy with ergot (my theory, confirmed by others) led to seeking the promised transformative experience of First Communion in other drugs. When he didn't transform, he began to question all authority. "I think I saw religion as the first big betrayal," Carlin said. At Corpus Christi school he was told, "You will be in the state of grace, and you will feel God's presence. When none of that happened, I began to see that they were lying to me."
Carlin began smoking pot when he was 13 and says he smoked daily from the age of 15, including before all his TV appearances. He quit school in 9th grade and left home at the age of 17, joining the Air Force and working as a DJ until being discharged for "showing a certain amount of disrespect for an NCO."
Lenny Bruce was an influence, and Carlin was in the audience when Bruce was arrested for obscenity, also going to jail when he refused to show his ID. He began his comedy career with a partner wearing a suit and tie and playing goofy characters, already telling stoner jokes. He went solo with characters like the stoned Hippie Dippie Weatherman. "Tomorrow's high is whenever I get up," was one of his jokes.