Monday, June 23, 2008

In Memoriam - George Carlin

The Associated Press reports:

Legendary Comedian George Carlin Dies

George Carlin, the frenzied performer whose routine "Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television" led to a key Supreme Court ruling on obscenity, has died.

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 71.

"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.
Comedian Lenny Bruce was influential in changing the course of Carlin's comedy to something more socially relevant.

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

Carlin is survived by his wife Sally Wade, daughter Kelly Carlin McCall and son-in-law Bob McCall, his brother Patrick Carlin and sister-in-law Marlene Carlin.


Westcoast Walker said...

Carlin was great ... provocative, engaging, thought provoking and funny as hell. I remember hearing his "ice box man" sketch when I was a kid on the Dr. Demento show and listening to it over and over again because I thought it was so darn funny.

He will be missed!

Mary Ellen said...

I liked some of his stuff, not all. It's such a shame that he died at such a young age. For some reason, 71 doesn't seem all that old to me any more. Go figure.

He certainly will be missed in the entertainment world. My sympathies to his family.

BAC said...

Westcoast Walker - welcome. Sorry to meet under such sad circumstances. Carlin will be missed.

ME - I agree, 71 doesn't seem all that old any more.


Dean Wormer said...

I heard him interviewed recently. He sounded exactly the same as he had twenty years ago.