One of America's most popular and often controversial comedians, George Carlin, died in Santa Monica, California. He was 71.
the early 1960's, through the beatnik, folk and hippie eras, to today's
cutting edge humor, George Carlin has entertained generations of
Americans. He starred in several movies, wrote a popular book, "Brain
Droppings," appeared in several television series and was a guest 135
times on legendary talk show host Johnny Carson's Tonight show. But
George Carlin will be best remembered as a wise and witty stand-up
George Carlin was born in New York City, the
son of newspaper industry parents. His father was an advertising sales
representative for several newspapers; his mother was a manager of the
Philadelphia Bulletin's New York office, as well as Good Housekeeping
magazine. During a 1999 visit to the National Press Club in
Washington, Mr. Carlin recalled how his "Aunt Aggie," who produced the
Sunday comics sections, helped him be the first boy to know what was in
the newspaper - and a popular kid in school.
"Here's the great
thing about Aggie's job. Not only did she bring home the funnies every
week. She brought them home four weeks early," Carlin said. "Are you
hearing this? Every week, I had the Sunday funnies a month before the
other kids. I guess you can realize the power this gave me in the
school yard -- to be able to predict weeks ahead of time precisely the
way 'Mandrake the Magician' would escape from the lost cave. Or to describe in advance the details of whatever
well-deserved catastrophe was next in store for 'Little Orphan Annie.'
It doesn't sound like much today. But in the days before television,
and when you're eight years old, it was power beyond belief!"
that introduction to comedy, via cartoon strips, George Carlin said he
was blessed with good schoolteachers in his early childhood.
the 1940s, I attended a school still in existence: Corpus Christi in
New York City. It was not a typical Catholic grammar school education.
For one thing, we had boys and girls together. We did not wear
uniforms. The desks were all movable. And, there were no report cards
- no grades or report cards of any kind. It was a garden; it was a
place that let me flower," Carlin said.
But George Carlin's
fortunes changed in high school. Its harsh disciplinary rules led him
to drop out before graduating. He said that experience helped foster
his contempt for euphemisms and being told what he could or could not
say. In 1973, a monologue by Mr. Carlin that was broadcast on the
Pacifica radio network was declared indecent by the government's
Federal Communications Commission. The case was ultimately upheld by
the United States Supreme Court. And, George Carlin became forever
known as the comedian who uttered the "seven dirty words that can't be
said over the air." Reflecting on the incident, more than 25 years
later, Mr. Carlin wondered what the fuss was all about.
will always be language taboos in any culture. There are aspects of
our bodies that certain religions have put beyond the pale. I don't
think it's cheapened our discourse. I think it limits people," he
said. "I've always said I enjoy using all the language. Human beings
invented all of this language. When I was a little boy, I was told to
look up to policemen and look up to sports stars, and look up to the
military. And we all know how they speak. Apparently it hasn't
corrupted them morally. So. I think these words are overrated for
George Carlin's notoriety from the "seven dirty
words" incident helped make him one of the highest-paid comedians in
the 1970's. In the 1990's, Mr. Carlin starred in his own situation
comedy, which lasted one season, and provided the voice of a train
conductor in the children's series "Shining Time." But he told the
Washington audience he was, most of all, a comedian - an art form of
which he was proud.
"I found it was an honest craft and that art
was involved," Carlin said. " I do like to point out that there is an
artistic process involved in observing the world, interpreting it, and
then writing something about it and performing it. It's the low end of
the scale in art. Perhaps it's not fine art. But it is art. I found
that out and it gave me a purpose and strength."
Popular American comedian George Carlin, died Sunday at the age of 71.