George Carlin's daughter describes growing up with comedian
Kelly Carlin-McCall, daughter of late comedian George Carlin, has written a memoir called A Carlin Home Companion about the ups and downs of a childhood with her famous father, including his drug problems.
Appearing recently on NPR's "All Things Considered," Kelly read excerpts on air to Elizabeth Blair, who said of the book, "You get the sense that growing up the daughter of George Carlin was both a dream and a nightmare."
On the show, Kelly was frank about her parents' history with substance abuse: "I could tell," Kelly read from her book, "Was Mom drunk? Was she just waking up and had a hangover? Had Dad been up for a few days with cocaine, or was he just smoking some weed, and he's just, you know, kind of mellow? Have they been arguing, are they getting along? Walking on eggshells doesn't even begin to explain it."
As the Carlins' only child, she had a backseat view of George's career (sometimes quite literally, traveling around the country in the "old Dodge Dart"), of his edgy shows, cocaine addiction, alcoholism, health scares and massive IRS debt.
A particularly haunting story from a trip the Carlins took to Hawaii, when Kelly was 11, stands out. "The coke was running low," read Kelly. "Mom wanted more and argued about every trespass they'd ever committed against each other in their 14 years together. Then Mom picked up a kitchen knife, and Dad did, too. I screamed and hurled myself between them. Stop. Stop. Please, just stop this."
Aiming to defuse the altercation, she wrote out a "U.N.-style peace treaty" that said, "I, George Carlin/Brenda Carlin, will no longer snort cocaine, drink alcohol or argue with each other for the rest of the vacation. The undersigned agrees to these conditions so that we can all have a perfect Hawaiian vacation." She then drew two lines underneath and had both of her parents sign it. They broke it almost immediately, and Kelly distanced herself from them for the rest of her stay.
Since then, and after her father's death in 2008, Kelly talks about moving beyond her father's legacy and carving out her own life. Today, she hosts a self-titled radio show on SiriusXM.