R.I.P. George Carlin - 1937-2008

Carlin, counterculture comedians' dean, dies at 71

By KEITH ST. CLAIR – June 23, 2008

LOS ANGELES (AP) — George Carlin, the dean of counterculture comedians whose biting insights on life and language were immortalized in his "Seven Words You Can Never Say On TV" routine, died of heart failure Sunday. He was 71.

Carlin, who had a history of heart trouble, went into St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica on Sunday afternoon complaining of chest pain and died later that evening, said his publicist, Jeff Abraham. He had performed as recently as last weekend at the Orleans Casino and Hotel in Las Vegas.

"He was a genius and I will miss him dearly," Jack Burns, who was the other half of a comedy duo with Carlin in the early 1960s, told The Associated Press.

Carlin's jokes constantly breached the accepted boundaries of comedy and language, particularly with his routine on the "Seven Words" — all of which are taboo on broadcast TV and radio to this day. When he uttered all seven at a show in Milwaukee in 1972, he was arrested on charges of disturbing the peace, freed on $150 bail and exonerated when a Wisconsin judge dismissed the case, saying it was indecent but citing free speech and the lack of any disturbance.

When the words were later played on a New York radio station, they resulted in a 1978 Supreme Court ruling upholding the government's authority to sanction stations for broadcasting offensive language during hours when children might be listening.

"So my name is a footnote in American legal history, which I'm perversely kind of proud of," he told The Associated Press earlier this year.

Despite his reputation as unapologetically irreverent, Carlin was a television staple through the decades, serving as host of the "Saturday Night Live" debut in 1975 — noting on his Web site that he was "loaded on cocaine all week long" — and appearing some 130 times on "The Tonight Show."

He produced 23 comedy albums, 14 HBO specials, three books, a couple of TV shows and appeared in several movies, from his own comedy specials to "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" in 1989 — a testament to his range from cerebral satire and cultural commentary to downright silliness (and sometimes hitting all points in one stroke).

"Why do they lock gas station bathrooms?" he once mused. "Are they afraid someone will clean them?"

He won four Grammy Awards, each for best spoken comedy album, and was nominated for five Emmy awards. On Tuesday, it was announced that Carlin was being awarded the 11th annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, which will be presented Nov. 10 in Washington and broadcast on PBS.

Carlin started his career on the traditional nightclub circuit in a coat and tie, pairing with Burns to spoof TV game shows, news and movies. Perhaps in spite of the outlaw soul, "George was fairly conservative when I met him," said Burns, describing himself as the more left-leaning of the two. It was a degree of separation that would reverse when they came upon Lenny Bruce, the original shock comic, in the early '60s.

"We were working in Chicago, and we went to see Lenny, and we were both blown away," Burns said, recalling the moment as the beginning of the end for their collaboration if not their close friendship. "It was an epiphany for George. The comedy we were doing at the time wasn't exactly groundbreaking, and George knew then that he wanted to go in a different direction."

That direction would make Carlin as much a social commentator and philosopher as comedian, a position he would relish through the years.

"The whole problem with this idea of obscenity and indecency, and all of these things — bad language and whatever — it's all caused by one basic thing, and that is: religious superstition," Carlin told the AP in a 2004 interview. "There's an idea that the human body is somehow evil and bad and there are parts of it that are especially evil and bad, and we should be ashamed. Fear, guilt and shame are built into the attitude toward sex and the body. ... It's reflected in these prohibitions and these taboos that we have."

Carlin was born May 12, 1937, and grew up in the Morningside Heights section of Manhattan, raised by a single mother. After dropping out of high school in the ninth grade, he joined the Air Force in 1954. He received three court-martials and numerous disciplinary punishments, according to his official Web site.

While in the Air Force he started working as an off-base disc jockey at a radio station in Shreveport, La., and after receiving a general discharge in 1957, took an announcing job at WEZE in Boston.

"Fired after three months for driving mobile news van to New York to buy pot," his Web site says.

From there he went on to a job on the night shift as a deejay at a radio station in Forth Worth, Texas. Carlin also worked variety of temporary jobs including a carnival organist and a marketing director for a peanut brittle.

In 1960, he left with Burns, a Texas radio buddy, for Hollywood to pursue a nightclub career as comedy team Burns & Carlin. He left with $300, but his first break came just months later when the duo appeared on the Tonight Show with Jack Paar.

Carlin said he hoped to would emulate his childhood hero, Danny Kaye, the kindly, rubber-faced comedian who ruled over the decade that Carlin grew up in — the 1950s — with a clever but gentle humor reflective of its times.

Only problem was, it didn't work for him, and they broke up by 1962.

"I was doing superficial comedy entertaining people who didn't really care: Businessmen, people in nightclubs, conservative people. And I had been doing that for the better part of 10 years when it finally dawned on me that I was in the wrong place doing the wrong things for the wrong people," Carlin reflected recently as he prepared for his 14th HBO special, "It's Bad For Ya."

Eventually Carlin lost the buttoned-up look, favoring the beard, ponytail and all-black attire for which he came to be known.

But even with his decidedly adult-comedy bent, Carlin never lost his childlike sense of mischief, even voicing kid-friendly projects like episodes of the TV show "Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends" and the spacey Volkswagen bus Fillmore in the 2006 Pixar hit "Cars."

Carlin's first wife, Brenda, died in 1997. He is survived by wife Sally Wade; daughter Kelly Carlin McCall; son-in-law Bob McCall; brother Patrick Carlin; and sister-in-law Marlene Carlin.

Associated Press writer Christopher Weber contributed to this report.


For the many many laughs...

Do these people deserve to know how and why their loved ones were murdered? Do we deserve to know how and why 9/11 happened?

I remember when I was in

I remember when I was in elementary school - 7th grade, I think - and his "AM/FM" album had come out. I actually played a skit about birth control during a religion class (I went to catholic school)! I had more than a few words from the nun that day! Ever since then, I've been a loyal fan, but until recently, I never understood what he was trying to say. Funny how he knew so many years ago what was really going on - and tried to tell his audience, in a funny way, the truth. I wonder if now that he's gone, will they actually listen?

RIP George, you will be missed.

Very sorry to say G'by to

Very sorry to say G'by to George, that "old fuck" as he quipped.. : ) Just posting here what I wrote on RawStory's comments section...

I'm really touched how many positive, insightful comments I see here -- I thought/think very highly of George Carlin; he was a genius of language and about the shrewdist observer of culture we may ever see. He made me laugh but also rejoice: at his capacity for trenchant truths.

As for his take on the country, that we're finished, I think he's right. And that's okay - as far as EMPIRE is concerned, I couldn't care less to see how things are falling apart -- how else will we be forced to rebuild?? I think he'd share that angle on things.

Thirdly (?) watch how the coverage of George's life/work is glossed over, or rather slandered and skewed: I've always been amazed, as it was, that the public perception begins and ends with the "seven dirty words" - media's fault no doubt. There's infinitely more to his thinking and his contributions, which folks here seem to recognize.

I won't say "rest in peace" because George clearly couldn't stand empty sentiments like that. Nor did he like "I bet he's up there looking down on us". ("What about being down below, looking up from hell?" !!)

But bless his heart anyway - he had a huge heart; (how ironic, or not, poetically -- heart "failure"!) not to mention the amazing mind, the wizardly eye and ear for language, and lesser known moments of great poignancy too, as part of his deeply felt understanding of things.

I'll miss you greatly ,master trickster thought-provoker George Carlin.

"I don't believe there's any problem in this country, no matter how tough it is,
that Americans, when they roll up their sleeves, can't completely ignore."

- George Carlin

Thanks, George.


Rest in peace, buddy.

Rest in peace, buddy.

You will be missed George...

...I don't know what we'll do without you.


"Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. Whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government." -The Declaration of Independence

A fine comedian

........a finer man. George knew the score. He was a smart man. He will be missed.
Thanks George. Rest in peace.

Farewell, George...

... I will miss you!

Here is George on Dennis Miller show in 2001. Here is another set of his sharp observations -- illusion of choice, how religion enables upselling of other bullshit, living outside of it all, observing the "freakshow", etc.

However, some bullshit seems too big even for a bright and fearless guy like George Carlin.

1. I don't think he was on-board with 9-11. Even on that book-signing video on top, he is kind of evasive. Either he did not believe that 9-11 was an inside job, or he was too chicken to spell it out.

2. In "You are all diseased" show he contrasted Jesus worship to Sun worship, apparently not realizing that the two are the same -- Christianity is Sun worship (in disguise). The whole Jesus story is almost 100% astronomical/astrological allegory.

Thank you for your great contribution, George!
Luckily, I have most of your recordings!