All throughout the blogosphere and elsewhere, when the news hit that Ann Coulter was going to be on The Tonight Show on the same night as George Carlin, the anticipation began to build. What would happen? Would a spar ensue, with the elderly Carlin firing jabs in Coulter’s direction as Ann dodges and counterattacks with her particular brand of verbal mace?

I must admit, I was intrigued by the entertainment possibilities. The planets were aligned for an epic showdown, and I wasn’t about to miss it.

So, Wednesday night, I watched the Tonight Show. Normally I’m in bed by that time, but a severe cold left me with phlegm-induced insomnia accompanied by coughing and sneezing fits with a degree of severity that anybody in proximity would have been wise to cover themselves in plastic tarp as if they’re in the front row at a Gallagher concert. Even allergy-free, I would have made sure to have reserved some time for the Coulter/Carlin joint appearance, but viewing the show through an overstuffed head and halfway to the moon on antihistamines only added to the allure of the matchup.

Carlin was the first guest, and George was basically on the show to promote the Disney movie “Cars.” Maybe there would have been a bit more spunk in Carlin, but when you’re there on behalf of Disney, throwing around the “A” material (Atheist, Anti-Bush, Anti-Corporate anything) probably wouldn’t be a good idea if you’re expecting the check from this particularly huge corporation to clear. Carlin isn’t known as a sellout, but every man has his price, so George was probably just a few dollars away from coming onstage donning Mickey ears.

Despite Carlin’s long-standing pessimism concerning just about everything, along with anti-religious cracks and “anybody who believes in God is an idiot” routines, I’m a fan. George Carlin’s audience consists partly of people who agree with him regularly, and the rest are those of us who suffer from a sociological Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome and get a kick out of having our morals and beliefs poked, prodded and punched. Our beliefs, having survived the attack, are reaffirmed, all while there’s a smile on our face. This is why I like George Carlin– because he knows what he was put on this earth to do and he does it well.

Sometimes Carlin can sound like a bitter old man– the guy you get stuck next to at the bar who just got laid off, has an annoying rash, and whose kids never call anymore– but for the most part Carlin is a creative and inventive comedian.

Coulter, whose book “Godless” is #1 on the New York Times bestseller list, a fact that has to have a good half of the NYT staff on suicide watch, seemed to have the ear of the studio audience. I love Ann Coulter for any number of reasons, but most fun is watching the Hulk Hogan attitude pour out of a skinny blonde.

Coulter has also reached a particular business pinnacle: those who despise her are now doing the most work in peddling her books. Ann should be paying liberals a commission. Every whimper, cry of dissent and accusation of being a right wing uber meanie pique interest and keep her books front page and lead story. Ann Coulter is one of those authors and entertainers who owe a good chunk of their success to their opponents.

On the Tonight Show, the only time Carlin spoke up during Coulter’s appearance was just after Ann sat down. Carlin noted that he had to “move to the right” to make room for Coulter.

So, frankly, there are some disappointed viewers out there. It was like seeing George Foreman and Joe Frazier on Johnny Carson, and they never even throw a few mock punches at each other.

But maybe, just maybe, Carlin, whose material suggests rather loudly that he doesn’t believe in God, had nowhere to go. After all, when somebody has a hit book called “Godless,” what’s an atheist to criticize?

Frankly, the lack of verbal pugilism is not surprising. Coulter cares not who she offends, and neither does Carlin, so even if there are political disagreements, they’ve got more in common than it may appear on the surface. Coulter and Carlin are bright enough to know that watching two people who don’t care who they offend trying to offend each other is counterproductive and boorish — the kind of television best left to Chris Matthews.

So, what were we expecting with the Leno appearance? Who knows, but Ann stuck to what she does best and Carlin refused to interject nitpickiness and help sell her any books. It was refreshing to see two people do what they do best and leave the confrontational interpersonal squabbling to politicians with no entertainment value.

Here’s a video with soft audio of Coulter’s appearance. Hope your hearing is good.


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