On September 9 and 10, 2001, George Carlin was in Las Vegas performing material that would feature in his upcoming HBO special, “I Kinda Like It When a Lotta People Die” (via The New Yorker). In a remarkable case of irony, Carlin joked about Osama Bin Laden and an exploding plane, although the cause of the explosion wasn’t a suicide attack but … flatulence. Carlin joked, “These planes get flying so fast that all the most vicious, lethal, volatile, flammable, unstable farts get pushed toward the back of the airplane, where they begin to build up pressure … finally some kid turns on a Game Boy and boom! The whole back end of the plane blows off. And you know who gets blamed? Osama bin Laden.”
Later in the performances, which were shelved for some 15 years, Carlin joked that when a fatal disaster occurs, he is “always rooting for a really high death toll.” This outrageous gag was a comment on the media’s relentless coverage of such events, which he believed was a reflection of humanity’s fascination with death and destruction.
Despite Carlin’s flair for controversy, 9/11 caused him to revise much of the material in his HBO special. It was renamed “Complaints and Grievances” and shifted its focus away from terrorism and onto people who annoyed Carlin, such as gun nuts and men called Todd.