Grammy Award-winning comedian George Carlin died of heart failure yesterday in Santa Monica, Calif. at the age of 71. According to reports, Mr. Carlin had a history of heart problems, and had checked into the hospital Sunday afternoon after complaining of chest pains. He had just performed the previous weekend in Las Vegas, and was scheduled to receive the John F. Kennedy Center For the Performing Arts’ Mark Twain Prize, a lifetime achievement award, in November.
Newspapers today remembered Mr. Carlin as a cultural provocateur. “By the mid-’70s, like his comic predecessor Lenny Bruce and the fast-rising Richard Pryor, Mr. Carlin had emerged as a cultural renegade,” The New York Times wrote today. “In addition to his irreverent jests about religion and politics, he openly talked about the use of drugs, including acid and peyote, and said that he kicked cocaine not for moral or legal reasons but after he found ‘far more pain in the deal than pleasure.’ But the edgier, more biting comedy he developed during this period, along with his candid admission of drug use, cemented his reputation as the ‘comic voice of the counterculture.'”
Click ‘play’ on the video above to watch a clip of a stand-up routine in which Carlin rants about politicians and the voters who elect them.
And here’s some more from George Carlin obituaries published today:
His comedic sensibility revolved around a central theme: humanity is a cursed, doomed species. [Reuters]
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. [AP]
He was irascible, profane, blasphemous, and determinedly astute. Whether deciphering the American political scene, or dissecting Americans’ foibles, or disassembling the English language, he had the ability to re-create the perceptions of a listener, to hilarious effect. [The Boston Globe]
Carlin was born May 12, 1937 and grew up in New York City. After serving in the Air Force in the 1950s, he began to work as a radio DJ before he developed his comedy act. He first appeared on the Jack Paar-hosted The Tonight Show in October, 1960. He would appear on the show more than 130 times in his life. [Bloomberg]
Carlin grew up on W. 121st St., which he would later joke that he and his friends ‘called “White Harlem”‘ because it sounded tougher than ‘Morningside Heights.’ [New York Daily News]