Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Community Comment

Comediene George Carlin Dead at 71

[Picture from AP]

Good morning, Netizens...

Hang down your heads and cry.

George Carlin, the quintessential king of hard-edged comedians made most famous for his "Seven Words You Can Never Say On TV" routine, died of heart failure Sunday. He was 71.

Carlin checked into a Santa Monica, Calif., hospital Sunday complaining of chest pain and died later last evening.

Carlin performed as recently as last weekend at the Orleans Casino and Hotel in Las Vegas. It was announced Tuesday that Carlin was being awarded the 11th annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.

Carlin constantly pushed the envelope with his jokes, particularly his famous "The Seven Words You Can Never Say On TV."

When Carlin uttered all seven at a show in Milwaukee in 1972, he was arrested for disturbing the peace. And when they were played on a New York radio station, they resulted in a Supreme Court ruling in 1978 upholding the government's authority to sanction stations for broadcasting offensive language.

His prodigious output of 23 comedy albums, 14 HBO specials, three books, a couple of TV shows and appeared in several movies kept his name in lights. Carlin hosted the first broadcast of "Saturday Night Live."

Carlin began his stand-up-comedy act in the late 1950s and made his first television solo guest appearance on "The Merv Griffin Show" in 1965.

Carlin released his first comedy album, "Take-Offs and Put-Ons," to rave reviews in 1967.

By the end of the decade, he was one of America's best-known comedians. He made more than 80 major TV appearances during that time, including "The Ed Sullivan Show" and Johnny Carson's "Tonight" show.

In 1970, Carlin discarded his suit, tie and clean-cut image as well as the relatively conventional material that had catapulted him to the top. Carlin reinvented himself, emerging with a beard, long hair, jeans and a routine that, according to one critic, was steeped in "drugs and bawdy language."

By 1972, when he released his second album, "FM & AM," his star was again on the rise. The album won a Grammy Award as best-comedy recording.

By 1977, when his first HBO comedy special, "George Carlin at USC," was aired, he was recognized as one of the era's most influential comedians.

In the years after his 1977 cable debut, Carlin was nominated for a half-dozen Grammy awards and received CableAces awards. He also won his second Grammy for the album "Jammin' " in 1994.

During the course of his career, Carlin overcame numerous personal trials. His struggle to overcome his self-described "heavy drug use" was well publicized.

But in the '80s he also weathered serious tax problems and two open-heart surgeries. His greatest setback was the loss of his wife, Brenda Hosbrook, who died in 1997. They had been married for 36 years.

Carlin is survived by wife, Sally Wade, and daughter Kelly Carlin McCall.
[Portions excerpted from the Associated Press]


Spokesman-Review readers blog about news and issues in Spokane written by Dave Laird.