LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Comedian George Carlin, a counter-culture hero famed for his routines about drugs, dirty words and the demise of humanity, died of heart failure at a Los Angeles-area hospital on Sunday. He was 71.
Carlin, who had a history of heart and drug-dependency problems, died at Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica about 6 p.m. PDT (9 p.m. EDT) after being admitted earlier in the afternoon for chest pains, spokesman Jeff Abraham told Reuters.
Known for his edgy, provocative material developed over 50 years, the bald, bearded Carlin achieved status as an anti-Establishment icon in the 1970s with stand-up bits full of drug references and a routine called “Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television.” A regulatory battle over a radio broadcast of the routine ultimately reached the U.S. Supreme Court.
In the 1978 case, Federal Communications Commission vs. Pacifica Foundation, the top U.S. court ruled that the words cited in Carlin’s routine were indecent, and that the government’s broadcast regulator could ban them from being aired at times when children might be listening.
The Grammy-winning Carlin remained an active presence on the comedy circuit. Carlin was scheduled to receive the John F. Kennedy Center’s prestigious Mark Twain Prize for American Humor in November and his publicist said Carlin performed in Las Vegas this month.
His comedic sensibility revolved around a central theme: humanity is a cursed, doomed species.
“I don’t have any beliefs or allegiances. I don’t believe in this country, I don’t believe in religion, or a god, and I don’t believe in all these man-made institutional ideas,” he told Reuters in a 2001 interview.
I heard about this this morning as I was getting ready for work, and was saddened, as I’m sure a lot of people are. George Carlin was indeed famed (or infamous) for his comedic social commentary, most of it (unfortunately) aimed at conservatives. I started to listen to his comedy routines before I became a conservative and didn’t stop once I crossed over to the “dark side.” My favorite comedy act of his was his “What Am I Doing in New Jersey” routine – which I watched on HBO in the late 80s, and got the audio tape when it was released a couple of years later. To this day it remains one of the funniest comedy routines I’ve ever watched/heard.
My thoughts and prayers go out to his family. He was an incredibly gifted comedian and entertainer who will be missed.