Comedian George Carlin dead at age 71
Associated Press Writer
SANTA MONICA, Calif. (AP) ” George Carlin, the comedian whose “Seven Words You Can Never Use on Television” landed him in jail and led to a Supreme Court obscenity ruling, died Sunday evening of heart failure. He was 71.
Carlin went into St. John’s Health Center on Sunday afternoon, complaining of chest pain, according to his publicist, Jeff Abraham. Carlin died at 5:55 p.m. PDT.
Carlin, who had a history of heart trouble, performed as recently as last weekend at the Orleans Casino and Hotel in Las Vegas.
It was announced Tuesday that Carlin was to be awarded in November the 11th annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. Carlin earned the honor through his 50-year career as a Grammy-winning standup comedian, writer and actor.
Carlin served as host of the first “Saturday Night Live” and appeared some 130 times on “The Tonight Show.”
Jack Burns performed with Carlin as a comedy duo in the early 1960s.
“George and I go back to the early days. He was one of my oldest friends,” Burns said. “We were together both in radio and in nightclubs. He was a genius and I will miss him dearly.”
Carlin, who grew up in New York City, was 2 when his father died, and his mother then went to work as an executive secretary to support him and his older brother, Pat. As a child, he listened to shows like “The Aldrich Family” and considered radio families to be part of his own extended family.
His career started in July 1956 at a Shreveport, La., radio station while he was still in the Air Force. He met Burns at a Fort Worth, Texas, station in 1959, and by the next year they were doing a morning show at a Hollywood station, before quitting for a chance in nightclubs.
They broke up by 1962, and by ’65, Carlin had frequent TV appearances. He was doing bland, safe material until 1970 when he grew a beard, lost the shirt and tie and started doing his now trademark irreverent material.
“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 told The Associated Press in 2001.
Associated Press writer Christopher Weber contributed to this report.