George Carlin, the award-winning comedian, actor, and author responsible for one of the most groundbreaking routines in the history of American comedy, has passed away at the age of 71.
According to Carlin’s publicist, Jeff Abraham, Carlin — who had a history of heart problems — checked into the hospital yesterday complaining of chest pain. The Associated Press put Carlin’s time of death at 5:55 PM.
Though he often shrugged off attempts to label him as a “difference-maker” in American culture, Carlin’s 1972 routine, “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television,” sparked an indecency debate that went all the way to the Supreme Court.
Though he was best known for his standup routine — and starred in more than a dozen HBO comedy specials — Carlin also found time to write several books and star in an assortment of television shows (he was the first host of Saturday Night Live) and movies. His most recent screen work took place behind the scenes, in the form of voicework for Cars and Happily N’Ever After, but he also made well-received appearances in films such as Dogma and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.
Carlin also accumulated a number of honors throughout his career, including four Grammy Awards, five Emmy nominations, and the 2008 Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. In announcing the Mark Twain Prize, Stephen Schwarzman, the Kennedy Center Chairman, had this to say about Carlin:
In his lengthy career as a comedian, writer, and actor, George Carlin has not only made us laugh, but he makes us think. His influence on the next generation of comics has been far-reaching.
Carlin is survived by his wife, Sally Wade, and his daughter, Kelly Carlin McCall.