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Her dad was George Carlin. Let the stories begin

Kelly Carlin has turned her dysfunctional family life into a one-woman show, 'A Carlin Home Companion.' Her dad will also be toasted by Garry Shandling and other comedians at a celebration on May 17.

May 11, 2012|By Deborah Vankin, Los Angeles Times

Comedian George Carlin may not have been one for frothy, sentimental displays, but Southern California will be honoring his 75th birthday (which would have been May 12), nonetheless; his daughter, Kelly, is leading the charge.

Kelly Carlin's one-woman show, "A Carlin Home Companion," has been selling out at the Santa Monica Playhouse for months, weaving together intimate family photos, video footage of George Carlin performing and personal stories in what's something of a tragicomedy, chronicling what it was like growing up, an only child, in the loving but dysfunctional Carlin home.

"It's like my father's public life versus my private world, and I'm bridging those two things," Kelly says.

The first half of "Home Companion," directed by comedian Paul Provenza, navigates Kelly's childhood and adolescence, shining light on a few "really, really dark years" in which her dad battled drug addiction and her mom, alcoholism. The latter half of the show focuses on the effects of those early years. "I talk about my own bad choices with men, experimenting with drugs, me trying to find my way, my feet, my ground, my voice," Kelly says. "It'll make you cry — and laugh."

Kelly hadn't planned on a career as a stand-up — she has a master's degree in Jungian psychology. But after her mother died in 1997, she began writing autobiographical essays. Her father died in 2008. Then in the fall of 2010, comedian Lewis Black persuaded her to fill a performing spot, telling stories about her dad — and "A Carlin Home Companion" began to take shape.

She also recently launched a monthly radio show, "The Kelly Carlin Show," on SiriusXM's Raw Dog Comedy channel.

And then there's the official George Carlin Birthday Celebration,which will take place at the Comedy and Magic Club in Hermosa Beach on May 17, featuring Kelly, Garry Shandling, Dana Gould, Rick Overton and Maria Bamford, among several others.

"My dad would hate that we're celebrating a dead man's birthday," Kelly says. "But as I said on the invitation: 'He's dead. We're not. We love him. So screw it.' And he would love that reaction too."

deborah.vankin@latimes.com

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