Comedian George Carlin dies at age 71
By KEITH ST. CLAIR – 17 hours ago
LOS ANGELES, Calif. (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.
This is an undated file photo originally released by HBO of George Carlinto promote his HBO special, "Its Bad For Ya". A publicist for George Carlin says the legendary comedian has died of heart failure at a hospital in Santa Monica, Calif., Sunday June 22, 2008. (AP Photo/HBO, Robert Sebree,file )
"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 pushed accepted boundaries of comedy and language, particularly with his routine on the "Seven Words" — all of which are more or 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 typically unapologetic on his release.
This is a March 19, 2004 file photo of actor and comedian George Carlin posing in a New York hotel . A publicist for George Carlin says the legendary comedian has died of heart failure at a hospital in Santa Monica, Calif., Sunday June 22, 2008. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull/file)
A Wisconsin judge dismissed the case, saying the language 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 Supreme Court ruling in 1978 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.
Carlin hosted the first broadcast of "Saturday Night Live" in 1975. He noted on his Web site that he was "loaded on cocaine all week long."
He also produced 23 comedy albums, 14 HBO specials, three books, a couple of TV shows and appeared in several movies. He was a guest 130 times on "The Tonight Show."
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.
When asked about the fallout from the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show that ended with Janet Jackson's breast-baring "wardrobe malfunction," Carlin told the AP, "What are we, surprised?"
"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," he said. "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 a Texas radio buddy, Jack Burns, 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. r 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.
"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."
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.