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George Carlin (1937)

George Dennis Carlin

Type :  

  Summary  

George Denis Patrick Carlin (May 12, 1937 – June 22, 2008) was an American stand-up comedian, social critic, satirist, actor and writer/author, who won five Grammy Awards for his comedy albums.

Carlin was noted for his black humor as well as his thoughts on politics, the English language, psychology, religion, and various taboo subjects. Carlin and his "Seven Dirty Words" comedy routine were central to the 1978 U.S. Supreme Court case F.C.C. v. Pacifica Foundation, in which a narrow 5–4 decision by the justices affirmed the government's power to regulate indecent material on the public airwaves.

The first of his fourteen stand-up comedy specials for HBO was filmed in 1977. In the 1990s and 2000s, Carlin's routines focused on socio-cultural criticism of modern American society. He often commented on contemporary political issues in the United States and satirized the excesses of American culture. His final HBO special, It's Bad for Ya, was filmed less than four months before his death.

In 2004, Carlin placed second on the Comedy Central list of the 100 greatest stand-up comedians of all time, ahead of Lenny Bruce and behind Richard Pryor. He was a frequent performer and guest host on The Tonight Show during the three-decade Johnny Carson era, and hosted the first episode of Saturday Night Live. In 2008, he was awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.

  Biography  

 early life
Carlin was born in Manhattan, the second son of Mary Beary, a secretary, and Patrick Carlin, a national advertising manager for the New York Sun. Carlin was of Irish descent and was raised a Roman Catholic.

Carlin grew up on West 121st Street, in a neighborhood of Manhattan which he later said, in a stand-up routine, he and his friends called "White Harlem", because that sounded a lot tougher than its real name of Morningside Heights. He was raised by his mother, who left his father when Carlin was two months old. He attended Corpus Christi School, a Roman Catholic parish school of the Corpus Christi Church, in Morningside Heights. After three semesters, at the age of 15, Carlin involuntarily left Cardinal Hayes High School and briefly attended Bishop Dubois High School in Harlem. Carlin had a difficult relationship with his mother and often ran away from home. He later joined the United States Air Force and was trained as a radar technician. He was stationed at Barksdale Air Force Base in Bossier City, Louisiana.

During this time he began working as a disc jockey at radio station KJOE, in the nearby city of Shreveport. He did not complete his Air Force enlistment. Labeled an "unproductive airman" by his superiors, Carlin was discharged on July 29, 1957.

 career
In 1959, Carlin and Jack Burns began as a comedy team when both were working for radio station KXOL in Fort Worth, Texas. After successful performances at Fort Worth's beat coffeehouse, The Cellar, Burns and Carlin headed for California in February 1960 and stayed together for two years as a team before moving on to individual pursuits.

 1960s
Within weeks of arriving in California in 1960, Burns and Carlin put together an audition tape and created The Wright Brothers, a morning show on KDAY in Hollywood. The comedy team worked there for three months, honing their material in beatnik coffeehouses at night. Years later when he was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Carlin requested that it be placed in front of the KDAY studios near the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Vine Street. Burns and Carlin recorded their only album, Burns and Carlin at the Playboy Club Tonight, in May 1960 at Cosmo Alley in Hollywood.

In the 1960s, Carlin began appearing on television variety shows, notably The Ed Sullivan Show and The Tonight Show. His most famous routines were:

  • The Indian Sergeant ("You wit' the beads... get outta line")
  • Stupid disc jockeys ("Wonderful WINO...")—"The Beatles' latest record, when played backwards at slow speed, says 'Dummy! You're playing it backwards at slow speed!'"
  • Al Sleet, the "hippie-dippie weatherman"—"Tonight's forecast: Dark. Continued dark throughout most of the evening, with some widely scattered light towards morning."
  • Jon Carson—the "world never known, and never to be known"

Variations on the first three of these routines appear on Carlin's 1967 debut album, Take Offs and Put Ons, recorded live in 1966 at The Roostertail in Detroit, Michigan.

During this period, Carlin became more popular as a frequent performer and guest host on The Tonight Show, initially with Jack Paar as host, then with Johnny Carson. Carlin became one of Carson's most frequent substitutes during the host's three-decade reign. Carlin was also cast in Away We Go, a 1967 comedy show that aired on CBS. His material during his early career and his appearance, which consisted of suits and short-cropped hair, had been seen as "conventional," particularly when contrasted with his later anti-establishment material.

Carlin was present at Lenny Bruce's arrest for obscenity. As the police began attempting to detain members of the audience for questioning, they asked Carlin for his identification. Telling the police he did not believe in government-issued IDs, he was arrested and taken to jail with Bruce in the same vehicle.

 1970s
Eventually, Carlin changed both his routines and his appearance. He lost some TV bookings by dressing strangely for a comedian of the time, wearing faded jeans and sporting long hair, a beard, and earrings at a time when clean-cut, well-dressed comedians were the norm. Using his own persona as a springboard for his new comedy, he was presented by Ed Sullivan in a performance of "The Hair Piece" and quickly regained his popularity as the public caught on to his sense of style.

In this period he also perfected what is perhaps his best-known routine, "Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television", recorded on Class Clown. Carlin was arrested on July 21, 1972, at Milwaukee's Summerfest and charged with violating obscenity laws after performing this routine. The case, which prompted Carlin to refer to the words for a time as "the Milwaukee Seven," was dismissed in December of that year; the judge declared that the language was indecent but Carlin had the freedom to say it as long as he caused no disturbance. In 1973, a man complained to the Federal Communications Commission after listening with his son to a similar routine, "Filthy Words", from Occupation: Foole, broadcast one afternoon over WBAI, a Pacifica Foundation FM radio station in New York City. Pacifica received a citation from the FCC that sought to fine the company for violating FCC regulations that prohibited broadcasting "obscene" material. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the FCC action by a vote of 5 to 4, ruling that the routine was "indecent but not obscene" and that the FCC had authority to prohibit such broadcasts during hours when children were likely to be among the audience. (F.C.C. v. Pacifica Foundation, 438 U.S. 726 . The court documents contain a complete transcript of the routine.)

The controversy only increased Carlin's fame. Carlin eventually expanded the dirty-words theme with a seemingly interminable end to a performance (ending with his voice fading out in one HBO version and accompanying the credits in the Carlin at Carnegie special for the 1982-83 season) and a set of 49 web pages organized by subject and embracing his "Incomplete List Of Impolite Words."

It was on-stage during a rendition of his "Dirty Words" routine that Carlin learned that his previous comedy album FM & AM had won the Grammy. Midway through the performance on the album Occupation: Foole, he can be heard thanking someone for handing him a piece of paper. He then exclaims "Shit!" and proudly announces his win to the audience.

Carlin hosted the premiere broadcast of NBC's Saturday Night Live, on October 11, 1975, the only episode as of at least 2007 in which the host had no involvement in sketches. He also hosted SNL on November 10, 1984 and appeared in several sketches. The following season, 1976–77, Carlin also appeared regularly on CBS Television's Tony Orlando & Dawn variety series.

Carlin unexpectedly stopped performing regularly in 1976, when his career appeared to be at its height. For the next five years, he rarely performed stand-up, although it was at this time that he began doing specials for HBO as part of its On Location series. He later revealed that he had suffered the first of three heart attacks during this layoff period. His first two HBO specials aired in 1977 and 1978.

 1980s and 1990s
In 1981, Carlin returned to the stage, releasing A Place For My Stuff and returning to HBO and New York City with the Carlin at Carnegie TV special, videotaped at Carnegie Hall and airing during the 1982-83 season. Carlin continued doing HBO specials every year or every other year over the following decade and a half. All of Carlin's albums from this time forward are from the HBO specials.

Carlin's acting career was primed with a major supporting role in the 1987 comedy hit Outrageous Fortune, starring Bette Midler and Shelley Long; it was his first notable screen role after a handful of previous guest roles on television series. Playing drifter Frank Madras, the role poked fun at the lingering effect of the 1960s counterculture. In 1989, he gained popularity with a new generation of teens when he was cast as Rufus, the time-traveling mentor of the titular characters in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, and reprised his role in the film sequel Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey as well as the first season of the cartoon series. In 1991, he provided the narrative voice for the American version of the children's show Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends, a role he continued until 1998. He played "Mr. Conductor" on the PBS children's show Shining Time Station, which featured Thomas the Tank Engine from 1991 to 1993, as well as the Shining Time Station TV specials in 1995 and Mr. Conductor's Thomas Tales in 1996. Also in 1991, Carlin had a major supporting role in the movie The Prince of Tides, which starred Nick Nolte and Barbra Streisand.

Carlin began a weekly Fox sitcom, The George Carlin Show, in 1993, playing New York City taxicab driver George O'Grady. The show, created and written by The Simpsons co-creator Sam Simon, ran 27 episodes through December 1995.

In his final book, the posthumously published Last Words, Carlin said about The George Carlin Show: "I had a great time. I never laughed so much, so often, so hard as I did with cast members Alex Rocco, Chris Rich, Tony Starke. There was a very strange, very good sense of humor on that stage. The biggest problem, though, was that Sam Simon was a fucking horrible person to be around. Very, very funny, extremely bright and brilliant, but an unhappy person who treated other people poorly. I was incredibly happy when the show was canceled. I was frustrated that it had taken me away from my true work."

In 1997, his first hardcover book, Brain Droppings, was published and sold over 750,000 copies as of 2001. Carlin was honored at the 1997 Aspen Comedy Festival with a retrospective, George Carlin: 40 Years of Comedy, hosted by Jon Stewart.

In 1999, Carlin played a supporting role as a satirical Roman Catholic cardinal in filmmaker Kevin Smith's movie Dogma. He worked with Smith again with a cameo appearance in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and later played an atypically serious role in Jersey Girl as the blue-collar father of Ben Affleck's character.

 2000s
In 2001, Carlin was given a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 15th Annual American Comedy Awards.
In December 2003, California U.S. Representative Doug Ose , introduced a bill to outlaw the broadcast of Carlin's "seven dirty words," including "compound use of such words and phrases with each other or with other words or phrases, and other grammatical forms of such words and phrases ." (The bill omits "tits," but includes "asshole," which was not part of Carlin's original routine.) This bill was never voted on. The last action on this bill was its referral to the House Judiciary Committee on the Constitution on January 15, 2004.

For years, Carlin had performed regularly as a headliner in Las Vegas, but in 2005 he was fired from his headlining position at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, after an altercation with his audience. After a poorly received set filled with dark references to suicide bombings and beheadings, Carlin stated that he could not wait to get out of "this fucking hotel" and Las Vegas, claiming he wanted to go back east, "where the real people are." He continued to insult his audience, stating:


An audience member shouted back that Carlin should "stop degrading us," at which point Carlin responded, "Thank you very much, whatever that was. I hope it was positive; if not, well, blow me." He was immediately fired by MGM Grand and soon after announced he would enter rehab for alcohol and prescription painkiller addiction.

He began a tour through the first half of 2006 following the airing of his thirteenth HBO Special on November 5, 2005, entitled Life is Worth Losing, which was shown live from the Beacon Theatre in New York City and in which he stated early on: "I've got 341 days of sobriety," referring to the rehab he entered after being fired from MGM. Topics covered included suicide, natural disasters , cannibalism, genocide, human sacrifice, threats to civil liberties in America, and how an argument can be made that humans are inferior to other animals.

On February 1, 2006, during his Life Is Worth Losing set at the Tachi Palace Casino in Lemoore, California, Carlin mentioned to the crowd that he had been discharged from the hospital only six weeks previously for "heart failure" and "pneumonia", citing the appearance as his "first show back."

Carlin provided the voice of Fillmore, a character in the Disney/Pixar animated feature Cars, which opened in theaters on June 9, 2006. The character Fillmore, who is presented as an anti-establishment hippie, is a VW Microbus with a psychedelic paint job whose front license plate reads "51237," Carlin's birthday and also the Zip Code for George, Iowa. In 2007, Carlin provided the voice of the wizard in Happily N'Ever After, along with Sarah Michelle Gellar, Freddie Prinze Jr., Andy Dick, and Wallace Shawn, his last film.

Carlin's last HBO stand-up special, It's Bad for Ya, aired live on March 1, 2008, from the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts in Santa Rosa, California. The themes that appeared in this HBO special included "American Bullshit," "Rights," "Death," "Old Age," and "Child Rearing." In his routine, he brought to light many of the problems facing America, and he told his audience to cut through the "bullshit" of the world and "enjoy the carnival." Carlin had been working on the new material for this HBO special for several months prior in concerts all over the country.

 personal life
In 1961, Carlin married Brenda Hosbrook (August 5, 1936 - May 11, 1997), whom he had met while touring the previous year. The couple's only child, a daughter named Kelly, was born in 1963. In 1971, George and Brenda renewed their wedding vows in Las Vegas. Brenda died of liver cancer a day before Carlin's 60th birthday, in 1997.

Carlin later married Sally Wade on June 24, 1998, and the marriage lasted until his death, two days before their tenth anniversary.

Carlin did not vote and often criticized elections as an illusion of choice. He said he last voted for George McGovern, who ran for President against Richard Nixon in 1972.

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  Novels  

  Albums 

  Tracks  

Name Duration Released
Goin' Through My Address Book 00:00 2008
The Self-Esteem Movement 00:00 2008
In a Coma 00:00 2008
Swearing on the Bible 00:00 2008
Old Fuck 00:00 2008
Today's Professional Parents 00:00 2008
What a Phone Call Should Be 00:00 2008
Takin' Off Yer Hat 00:00 2008
Opening 00:00 2008
A Couple of Other Questions 00:00 2008
Stupid Bullshit On The Phone 00:00 2008
God Bless America 00:00 2008
Dead Parents Helping 00:00 2008
Stupid Bullshit 00:00 2008
Proud to Be an American 00:00 2008
People Refuse To Be Realistic 00:00 2008
I Like People 00:00 2008
No One Questions Things 00:00 2008
Parents in Hell 00:00 2008
Raisin' a Child is Not Difficult 00:00 2008
Just Enough Bullshit 00:00 2008
He's Smiling Down 00:00 2008
Children Are Our Future 00:00 2008
They Want to Show You the Pictures 00:00 2008
Things We Say When People Die 00:00 2008
Every Child is Special 00:00 2008
Their Kids! 00:00 2008
Pyramid of the Hopeless 08:43 2006
Dumb Americans 10:56 2006
The All-Suicide TV Channel 03:13 2006
Extreme Human Behavior 13:41 2006
The Suicide Guy 07:06 2006
Coast-to-Coast Emergency 06:51 2006
Yeast Infection 04:38 2006
Three Little Words 03:51 2006
Posthumous Female Transplants 03:34 2006
A Modern Man 03:53 2006
Autoerotic Asphyxia 04:54 2006
Fear of Germs 05:58 1999
TV Tonight 03:53 1999
Airport Security 08:02 1999
Kids and Parents 06:51 1999
How's Everybody Doin' 00:54 1999
Man Stuff 05:23 1999
There is No God 08:37 1999
Minority Language 02:12 1999
Religion 02:06 1999
House of Blues 02:00 1999
Businessmen 01:26 1999
Harley Davidson 01:23 1999
American Bullshit 02:39 1999
Angels 01:10 1999
Advertising Lullabye 02:37 1999
Cigars 01:39 1999
Names 04:23 1999
Sanctity of Life 03:49 1996
Abortion 08:41 1996
Free-Floating Hostility 19:30 1996
Familiar Expressions 09:14 1996
Farting in Public 03:00 1996
State Prison Farms 08:13 1996
Capital Punishment 08:40 1996
First Leftfielders 04:56 06/1984
The Prayer 01:17 06/1984
Opening Sequence 01:50 06/1984
Cars and Driving 18:10 06/1984
Baseball and Football 02:53 06/1984
Breakfast Wine and Who's Boss 01:47 06/1984
Second Leftfielders 05:40 06/1984
A Moment of Silence 00:49 06/1984
Kids Are Too Small 03:11 04/1977
Headlines 04:23 04/1977
Death and Dying 13:48 04/1977
On the Road 04:46 04/1977
Supermarkets 07:03 04/1977
How's Your Dog? 05:06 04/1977
Words We Leave Behind 01:55 04/1977
Parents' Cliches and Children's Secret Answers 03:19 04/1977
Rules, Rules, Rules! 02:32 04/1977
Toledo Window Box 04:56 11/1974
Urinals are 50 Percent Universal 02:27 11/1974
Goofy Shit 03:59 11/1974
Snot, the Original Rubber Cement 02:54 11/1974
Gay Lib 02:06 11/1974
God 06:43 11/1974
The Metric System 02:09 11/1974
Water Sez 01:05 11/1974
Some Werds 07:57 11/1974
Nursery Rhymes 04:15 11/1974
A Few More Farts 05:55 11/1974
Values 05:16 1972
Wasted Time - Sharing a Swallow 02:27 1972
Class Clown 16:06 1972
Traffic Accidents: Keep Movin'! 06:16
Hands-Free Telephone Headsets 00:38
Guys Named Todd 01:30
The Opening 09:22
Telephone Mimes 01:09
People Who Misuse Credit Cards 00:51
'My Daddy' 00:51
Rich Guys in Hot Air Balloons 01:01
Baby Slings 00:59
Singers with One Name 00:41
Parents of Honor Students 02:15
People Who Wear Visors 00:39
Motivation Seminars 01:05
Music on Answering Machines 01:39
NASA-Holes 01:32
People Who Oughta Be Killed: Self-Help Books 01:16
Family Newsletters 01:23
White Guys Who Shave Their Heads 00:48
You & Me 10:38
Answering Machines 00:52
Gun Enthusiasts 01:26

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Whole or part of the information contained in this card come from the Wikipedia article "George Carlin", licensed under CC-BY-SA full list of contributors here.