Monday, June 23, 2008

Another Seminal Voice Passes On: George Carlin Dead at 71

Credit: Reuters/Gary C. Caskey

George Carlin, the counterculture comic whose comedy made us think even as we laughed out loud at his routines, died from heart failure in a Los Angeles hospital this past weekend. He was 71.

Though his comedy was often dark and caustic, Carlin was intellectual in that he made you think about the absurdities in life even as you were rolling on the floor with laughter. In doing so, he exposed the lies we were telling ourselves and cut through the euphenisms we used to disguise the truth, and in doing so was able to illuminate alternative thought in a way that few could fully appreciate.

But what served to define Carlin was his censorship battles over the Seven Dirty Words You Can't Say Over The Airwaves, which led to a legal battle that went straight to the Supreme Court.

Though he was angry and obscene on-stage, Carlin was quiet and gentle off-stage. And as Nikki Fikke notes, "Hollywood has long loved Carlin as a gentle and considerate man. But what the funnyman courageously did to fight censorship over the airwaves on radio and television is the legacy he leaves behind for the entertainment and media biz."

Carlin gave whas perhpas his last in-depth interview in a four-hour interview conducted by The Archive of American Television on December 17, 2007, for nearly four hours in Venice, CA. In this excerpt, Carlin talks about the change in his act from a 'mainstream' television comic to the 'counterculture dean', with the dramatic changes in his standup persona occurring before millions on television.

For more information about this and other Archive interviews, contact the archive at

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