George Carlin was a hypertalented funnyman whose work cut across various aspects of American society. He was a stand-up comedian, actor, writer and social critic. He earned a reputation for often delving into crucial topics which other social commentators may shy away from. His comedy routines were generally light-hearted reflections on sociocultural and political issues in the United States.
One of Carlin’s popular comedy routines “seven dirty words” influenced a landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court which affirmed the powers of the government to regulate indecent material in broadcasting. He hosted the first episode of Saturday Night Live in 1975 and was a frequent guest host during the 3-decade run of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.
George Carlin’s Biography
He was born George Denis Patrick Carlin on the 12th of May 1937. He was born and raised in New York. His mother was Irish-American while his father was an Irish immigrant. He was mainly raised by his mother as his parents’ marriage ended when he was just 2 months old. He had his early education at the parish school of the Corpus Christi Church in Morningside Heights, New York. For high school, he attended up to 3 different schools and eventually graduated from the Salesian High School in Goshen, New York.
During his teens, Carlin spent most of his summers at Camp Notre Dame on Spofford Lake in Spofford, New Hampshire, New York and he was a serial winner of the camp’s drama award. He served in the United States Air Force but his brief stint there was marred by several acts of rebellion. He started working as a DJ for a local radio station in Shreveport, Louisana, while he was still in the Air Force and eventually delved into comedy after his discharge from the force in 1957.
George Carlin relocated to Fort Worth, Texas, in the late 1950s and there, he met a fellow DJ Jack Burns with whom he formed a comedy team. The duo performed successfully in Fort Worth and by February 1960, they relocated to California in a bid to further their career. Carlin and Burns created a comedy show The Wright Brothers for Hollywood’s KDAY radio station while they continued performing at local clubs. After 2 years together, they split up amicably and decided to pursue their careers separately.
Carlin started appearing on TV shows in the early 60s and by 1966, he recorded his first comedy album as a solo act Take-Offs and Put-Ons. He was a regular guest on The Tonight Show, particularly during Johnny Carson’s successful 30-year run as the show’s host. He released another highly successful comedy album FM & AM in 1972 and this marked his switch from mainstream comedy to radical social commentary comedy.
In 1972, George Carlin recorded one of his most famed and controversial comedy routines “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television” which was characterised by an unchecked use of foul language. A New York-based radio station was sued to court after broadcasting the routine and the lawsuit ultimately led to a historic Supreme Court judgement which upheld the powers of the Federal Communications Commission to regulate broadcasting on public airwaves. Interestingly, the transcript of Carlin’s original routine was included in the court documents.
George Carlin became even more famous following the lawsuit and the consequent landmark court ruling and he capitalised on it to further boost his career. On October 11, 1975, he hosted the very first episode of Saturday Night Live. He also recorded 14 stand-up comedy specials on the HBO network, starting from 1977. He released up to 20 comedy albums and 4 compilation albums during his lifetime. The talented funnyman headlined a self-titled sitcom The George Carlin Show on the Fox network between 1994 and 1995 but ultimately returned to stand-up comedy after the show was cancelled. He also featured in several comedy movies including Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989), Scary Movie 3 (2003), Tarzan II (2005) and Cars (2006).
Carlin won 5 Grammy Awards (1973, 1994, 2001, 2002, 2009) in the Best Comedy Album category during his more than 50 years of comedy. He was inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1987. He was also honoured at the 1997 Aspen Comedy Festival and in 2001, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 15th Annual American Comedy Awards.
George Carlin had a net worth of $10 million. The bulk of his wealth was made through his illustrious career as a standup comedian and actor. Carlin also excelled as a writer and as many as one million copies of his books have been sold worldwide.
How And When Did He Die?
On June 22, 2008, George Carlin passed on at the St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California. He was 71 years of age and his death was as a result of a cardiac arrest. The beloved comedian had suffered a series of heart problems for the greater part of his over 7-decade existence.
Carlin had performed his last show at The Orleans Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas just one week prior to his death. In compliance with his wishes, his remains were cremated and the ashes spread at various locations where he had performed in New York City and also at Spofford Lake in southwestern New Hampshire where he attended summer camp as a teenager.
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