King of the counter culture comics in the post-Lenny Bruce era, George Carlin is dead at 71.
Carlin who had just been awarded the 11th annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor produced 23 comedy albums, 14 HBO Specials, guested on The Tonight Show 130 times, and starred in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, succumbed to heart failure at St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica.
Carlin won four Grammy Awards for best comedy album and had been s nominated for five Emmys.
Carlin, who started his a career as a traditional comedian, said his life changed when he saw Lenny Bruce, the notorious sick comedian of the early 1960s. Bruce challenged authorities with his controversial usage of ‘obscenities’ and found himself the subject of continual police harassment until his death.
By the time Carlin became the first guest host on Saturday Night Live in 1975, he had challenged mainstream perceptions of comedic satire with his ground-breaking routine "Seven Words You Can’t Say on TV" — which was later played on a New York radio station in defiance of the FCC.
The broadcast forced a Supreme Court ruling in 1978 to uphold government’s authority to regulate offensive language on TV and radio.
"My name is a footnote in American legal history, which I’m perversely kind of proud of," Carlin later said.
Of those "Seven Words’ – two out of the seven can now be heard on television and radio regularly.