Comedian George Carlin died from heart failure today. The man who made famous the “seven words you can never say on television” passed away at 5:55 p.m. Sunday at Saint John’s Hospital in Santa Monica, his longtime publicist said. He was 71.
Carlin, who has had several heart attacks and a history of cardiac issues, went into the hospital this afternoon after complaining of heart problems.
Carlin had more than 22 comedy albums, 14 HBO specials, numerous TV and movie roles, and three best-selling books to his credit. Last year, he celebrated his 50th year in show business, and he had just finished his last HBO special in March, “It’s Bad for Ya.”
George Carlin was the first host ever on “Saturday Night Live” and he appeared on “The Tonight Show” more than 130 times?
Carlin reinvented social commentary, discussing everything from religion and politics to airport security. He excelled at stand-up, whether at the Roostertail in Detroit, the old Cellar Door in Washington or Carnegie Hall. His three books have been bestsellers. He has won four Grammy Awards, spanning 1973 to 2002. His TV shows have been nominated for five Emmys.
Carlin, a native of New York City, started his career in 1956 at a radio station in Shreveport, La., when he was in the Air Force. In the early ’60s, he began his solo act and his performances and albums were instant hits.
He struggled with personal issues. In the 1970s he developed a cocaine habit and heart problems, according to his Web site.
With the advent of cable television, his audience expanded and he did a series of specials for HBO. But his fans grew younger when he did the voice for the American version of “Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends” as well as appearances as Mr. Conductor on “Shining Time Station.”
In 2004, he was voted No. 2 on Comedy Central‘s 100 greatest stand-ups, trailing only Pryor.
On a personal note, George Carlin’s album, Class Clown was the first comedy record that I ever purchased and I listened to it until the routines were engrained in my memory. I had the pleasure of seeing George Carlin live in 1983 and found him to be relevant, warm and very funny. I will miss his skewed sense of humor and wry observations such as:
“I went to a bookstore and asked the saleswoman, “Where’s the self-help section?” She said if she told me, it would defeat the purpose.”
“If a mute swears, does his mother wash his hands with soap?”
“If a man stands in the middle of the forest speaking and there is no woman around to hear him . . . is he still wrong?”
“Is there another word for synonym?”
“Why do they lock gas station bathrooms? Are they afraid someone will clean them?”
“If the police arrest a mime, do they tell him he has the right to remain silent?”
“Why do they put Braille on the drive-through bank machines?”
“What was the best thing before sliced bread?”
“If one synchronized swimmer drowns, do the rest drown too?”
“Whose cruel idea was it for the word “Lisp” to have an “S” in it?”