The Lane Train

News and Pop Culture for the Blog Generation

George Carlin Dies at 71 (UPDATE)

Posted by thelanetrain on June 23, 2008

It’s a very sad day for comedy as legendary comedian and all around funny man George Carlin died last night at the age of 71. According to AFP, Carlin died after checking into a hospital in Santa Monica, CA while complaining of chest pains. The comedian also had a history of heart problems. The star of many HBO specials and the four-time Grammy winner will always be remembered as the sharp-tongued comic who had a unique, tell-it-like-it-is style and stunned audiences with his hit performance “Seven Words That Can Never Be Said On Television.”

After The Jump: CNN’s full obituary, plus a reader-submitted link

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) — George Carlin, the influential comedian whose routines used profanity, scatology and absurdity to point out the silliness and hypocrisy of human life, has died. He was 71.

Carlin performed as recently as last weekend at the Orleans Casino and Hotel in Las Vegas.

Carlin, who had a history of heart trouble, died of heart failure Sunday in Los Angeles, according to publicist Jeff Abraham. Carlin went into St. John’s Health Center on Sunday afternoon, complaining of chest pain, and died at 5:55 p.m. PT.

Carlin performed as recently as last weekend at the Orleans Casino and Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, and maintained a busy performing schedule, which included regular TV specials for HBO.

“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 was often quoted, his best lines traded like baseball cards. “Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?” began one famous routine. Then there were the non-sequiturs: “The bigger they are, the worse they smell,” he observed. He filled three best-selling books, several record albums and countless television appearances with his material.

He appreciated the impact his words made on fans.

“These are nice additional merit badges that you earn if you’ve left a mark on a person or on some people,” he told CNN.com in 2004. “I’d say it’s flattering, but flattery implies insincerity, so I call it a compliment.”

But he was probably best known for a routine that began, “I was thinking about the curse words and the swear words, the cuss words and the words that you can’t say.” It was a monologue, known as “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television,” that got Carlin arrested and eventually led to the Supreme Court.

The “Seven Dirty Words” bit, which was initially recorded for 1972’s “Class Clown” album, prompted a landmark indecency case after New York’s WBAI-FM radio aired it in 1973.

The case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, where the justices ruled 5-4 that the sketch was “indecent but not obscene,” giving the FCC broad leeway to determine what constituted indecency on the airwaves.

“So my name is a footnote in American legal history, which I’m perversely kind of proud of,” Carlin said. “In the context of that era, it was daring.

“It just sounds like a very self-serving kind of word. I don’t want to go around describing myself as a ‘groundbreaker’ or a ‘difference-maker’ because I’m not and I wasn’t,” he said. “But I contributed to people who were saying things that weren’t supposed to be said.” Video Watch Carlin’s 7 dirty words routine »

Carlin, who was also an author, was slated to receive in November the 2008 Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, given by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

“In his lengthy career as a comedian, writer and actor, George Carlin has not only made us laugh, but he makes us think,” Kennedy Center Chairman Stephen Schwarzman said in a statement. “His influence on the next generation of comics has been far-reaching.”

In a typically wry response, Carlin said, “Thank you, Mr. Twain. Have your people call my people.”

Carlin hosted the first broadcast of “Saturday Night Live” in October 1975.

He played the character of Mr. Conductor on the PBS series “Shining Time Station” and starred in more than a dozen HBO specials. Carlin was also a regular 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, the AP reported.

He also starred in three of comedic director Kevin Smith’s movie — 1999’s “Dogma,” 2001’s “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” and 2004’s “Jersey Girl.” And his voice was so familiar and tuned to the craft of comedy that he was often asked to appear in cartoons, including Toon City’s “Tarzan II,” Disney’s “Cars” and two episodes of “The Simpsons.”

He won four Grammy Awards, each for best spoken comedy album, and was nominated for five Emmy awards, according to AP.

UPDATE 6/23: One of our readers submitted a link in regards to the story.  Click Here for George Carlin’s seven best money jokes.

(Photo via Wittyphantom)

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