George Carlin need only be heard to be appreciated. You remember him pacing and gesturing as he crouched on the stage, delivering rapid-fire, surgical observations on the follies of humankind. Maybe it's his early days in radio, but the voice is among the most expressive anywhere. He leaps from rage to rant to sotto voce, from lecturing to confiding, as he plays a whole range of the characters who populate his wildly imaginative essays. You could listen to him for hours--and you will. Along the way you'll remember that Carlin was never just a comic. He was an articulate, informed, educated, and always opinionated eyewitness to the human condition. Hilarious and off-color, of course, but he covers an awful lot of ground in this collection, and really makes you think.
The thing about a David Sedaris reading, even at Carnegie Hall, is that he stands behind a podium and reads. It's not a physical performance, per se, so listening to the recording is about as good as the experience of being there. And that is very good indeed. Sedaris delivers a largely deadpan reading of hilarious and insightful material, from true family stories to wild fantasies. Audiences are in stitches from start to finish, and you will be, too. Although it's difficult to choose, this is some of his very best work.
Presented as an introductory guide to a vanished human race for the benefit of visiting aliens, "Earth" is a perceptive, tightly written, awfully clever survey of mankind's whole history. It's especially good at leaving unsaid the best punchlines, which immediately form in the listener's mind. With help from others, it is nonetheless mostly the voice of Jon Stewart who--freed from the rather more frantic persona of his TV show--is a skilled and expressive narrator. It's a joy to hear.