Comedian George Carlin died Sunday of heart failure. He was 71. Carlin was known for his social observations, and his “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television” sparked a Supreme Court ruling against obscenity. Days before his death, he was selected by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to receive this year's Mark Twain Prize, a lifetime achievement award presented to an outstanding comedian. (The Washington Post)
What the commentators said
“I'm really sorry to see this man go,” said Ann Althouse in her blog, Althouse. “He worked long and hard so many years, making us laugh, bringing us enlightenment.” Carlin left Americans with some of “the most brilliant comic riffs I've ever heard,” and not many comedians have enough impact to wind up in the middle of a Supreme Court case.
The uproar over Carlin’s 1972 dirty words routine cemented his reputation as “the “comic voice of the counterculture,” said Mel Watkins in The New York Times. In the spirit of his “comic predecessor” Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor, Carlin pushed society to open up a little with his skewering of authority, and his “irreverent jests about religion and politics.”
Carlin was definitely an interesting guy, said James Joyner in the blog Outside the Beltway. His observational humor was brilliant, but, “like many comics in the HBO era,” he was often “vulgar and outrageous simply because he could rather than because it served his art. It’s one thing to point to the absurdity of seven words that we all know being taboo in adult settings; it’s quite another to use them constantly simply for their shock value.”