E. Pablo Kosmicki/AP
Comedian George Carlin bows as he opens the 13th annual U.S. Comedy Arts Festival at
the Wheeler Opera House, Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2007, in Aspen, Colo.

Comedian George Carlin Dies at 71

June 23, 2008 12:43 PM
by Josh Katz
George Carlin, the comedian who built his career around satirizing the establishment and popular culture, died from heart failure on Sunday in Santa Monica, Calif.

30-Second Summary

George Carlin burst onto the stand-up comedy scene in the late 1950s, and in 1965 the witty wordsmith appeared on the Merv Griffin Show, his first television solo guest performance.

Throughout the 1960s, Carlin had short hair, donned a suit and tie and enraptured audiences with his quips about the counterculture movement and his popular characters Biff Barf and “hippy-dippy weatherman” Al Sleet.

But he transformed himself in the ’70s when he came to grips with the fact that he associated more with that counterculture. Carlin grew long hair and a beard and developed material “about drugs and Vietnam and America’s uptight attitude toward language and sex,” according to Time magazine. Conservative audiences reacted unkindly to this change, and he almost sparked a riot at the Playboy Club in Lake Geneva, Wis. He was temporarily banned from “The Tonight Show” for his drug-abuser image.

Carlin became infamous for his “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television,” a routine that lampooned America’s obsession with the taboo. The commotion that followed his act even made it to the Supreme Court, which upheld the FCC’s prohibition of “offensive language” during certain hours of the day.

“And in the 1990s and into the 21st century the balding but still pony-tailed comic prowled the stage—eyes ablaze and bristling with intensity—as the circuit’s most splenetic curmudgeon,” The New York Times writes.

Headline Links: George Carlin dies at 71

Background: Carlin’s career

Interviews with Carlin and video clips
Seven words

Reference:, Carlin’s books, guide to heart disease


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