R.I.P. - George Carlin

I felt that I should re-post this news article on the one and only man
that had me laughing since I was a child and heard that first record
album. George Carlin died yesterday [Sunday] and he will be missed.

By KEITH ST. CLAIR, Associated Press Writer 8 minutes ago

LOS ANGELES – Acerbic standup comedian and satirist George Carlin,
whose staunch defense of free speech in his most famous 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.

Despite his reputation as unapologetically irreverent, Carlin was a
television staple through the decades, serving as host of the
“Saturday Night Live” debut in 1975 — noting on his Web site that he
was “loaded on cocaine all week long” — and appearing some 130 times
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 — a testament
to his range from cerebral satire and cultural commentary to downright
silliness (and sometimes hitting all points in one stroke).

“Why do they lock gas station bathrooms?” he once mused. “Are they
afraid someone will clean them?”

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, which will be presented Nov. 10 in Washington and broadcast on PBS.

Carlin started his career on the traditional nightclub circuit in a
coat and tie, pairing with Burns to spoof TV game shows, news and
movies. Perhaps in spite of the outlaw soul, “George was fairly
conservative when I met him,” said Burns, describing himself as the
more left-leaning of the two. It was a degree of separation that would
reverse when they came upon Lenny Bruce, the original shock comic, in
the early ’60s.

“We were working in Chicago, and we went to see Lenny, and we were
both blown away,” Burns said, recalling the moment as the beginning of
the end for their collaboration if not their close friendship. “It was
an epiphany for George. The comedy we were doing at the time wasn’t
exactly groundbreaking, and George knew then that he wanted to go in a
different direction.”

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

“The whole problem with this idea of obscenity and indecency, and all
of these things — bad language and whatever — it’s all caused by one
basic thing, and that is: religious superstition,” Carlin told the AP
in a 2004 interview. “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. … It’s reflected in these
prohibitions and these taboos that we have.”

Carlin was born on 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 Fort 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 Burns, a Texas radio buddy, 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 Jack Paar’s “Tonight Show.”

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, and they broke up by 1962.

“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.”

Eventually Carlin lost the buttoned-up look, favoring the beard,
ponytail and all-black attire for which he came to be known.

But even with his decidedly adult-comedy bent, Carlin never lost his
childlike sense of mischief, even voicing kid-friendly projects like
episodes of the TV show “Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends” and the
spacey Volkswagen bus Fillmore in the 2006 Pixar hit “Cars.”

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.

R.I.P. - George Carlin


Joined April 2008

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