Comic, Free Speech Advocate George Carlin Dead at Age 71

In Celebrities, dissent, obituaries on June 23, 2008 by Editor Z

George Carlin, the provocative and popular stand-up comedian, satirist, author, and actor, who was once part of a historic free speech Supreme Court decision, died Sunday Night at the age of 71 of heart failure.

Carlin was bred in New York by a single mother and had no more then a 9th grade education, but would eventually become a celebrated and popular stand-up comedian and satirists with his often comical, controversial, and insightful takes on such matters as politics, religion, language, and life.

International Herald Tribune:

George Carlin, the Grammy Award-winning stand-up comedian and actor who was hailed for his irreverent social commentary, poignant observations of the absurdities of everyday life and language, and groundbreaking routines like ” The Seven Dirty Words You Can Never Use on Television,” died in Los Angeles on Sunday. He was 71.

The cause of death was heart failure, according to his publicist, Jeff Abraham.

Carlin began his stand-up comedy act in the late 1950s and made his first solo guest appearance on television on “The Merv Griffin Show” in 1965. At that time, he was primarily known for his clever wordplay and reminiscences of his Irish working-class upbringing in New York.

Carlin made numerous comedy albums, dabbled in television, and wrote several books including “When will Jesus bring the Pork Chops” in 2004.

In 1975 Carlin became the first guest host of a new NBC Saturday Night A comedy Sketch weekly program on NBC “Saturday Night Live”. In 1997 he had a brief stint on television with the George Carlin Show and was a frequent guest in the 1970s on the show “Tony Orlando and Dawn“.

Carlin also acted in a little over a dozen films since his film debut in “You Get Six with Eggroll” (1968) as well as such films as : Car Wash (1976), Outrageous Fortune (1987), the Bill and Teds Movies (one and two), Dogma (1999), Jersey Girl (2004), and others including a supporting role in the Barbara Streisand Nick Nolte vehicle “The Prince of Tides” (1991).

But he was best known for his scathing social satire and perspective before live audiences, on albums, and on frequent HBO specials that gained him the most acclaim. And much like Lenny Bruce (another comedian who faced free speech controversies and whose obscenity trial Carlin was present at) there were no sacred cows. In 1972 the “Filthy words” act on one of his comedy albums put Carlin in the center of a case that would eventually go all the way to the U.S Supreme Court in the case of the FCC v Pacifica radio.

The Supreme court ruled in the Pacifica case in 1978, that laws restricting profanity could be implemented when children could be in the audience. Carlin was defiant and continued to use the material even though it resulted in his arrest a number of times.

Carlin before his death was set to receive the annual Mark Twain award at the Kennedy center for the Performing Arts.


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