June 23, 2008
(AP) - "He was one of the greats," says actor Ben Stiller of George Carlin. Reacting to word of the comedian George Carlin's death on Sunday from heart failure, Stiller called Carlin a hugely influential force in
stand-up comedy. He says Carlin had an "amazing mind" -- and that
his humor was brave, challenging and incredibly entertaining.
Director Judd Apatow says "nobody was funnier than
George Carlin." Apatow, the man behind such hit comedies as "Knocked Up" and "The 40-year-Old Virgin" says he spent half his childhood in his room listening to Carlin -- experiencing pure joy.
Apatow also describes Carlin as being as kind as he was funny.
Jack Burns, who was the other half of a comedy duo with Carlin
in the early '60s, says he will miss Carlin dearly. He recalled him as "a genius
Carlin, who had a history of heart trouble, went into St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica on Sunday afternoon complaining of chest pain and died later that evening, said his publicist, Jeff Abraham. He had performed as recently as last weekend at the Orleans Casino and Hotel in Los Vegas. He was 71
Carlin's jokes constantly breached the accepted boundaries of comedy and language, particularly with his routine on the "Seven Words" - all of which are taboo on broadcast TV and radio to this day.
When he uttered all seven at a show in Milwaukee in 1972, he was
arrested on charges of disturbing the peace, freed on $150 bail and
exonerated when a Wisconsin judge dismissed the case, saying it was
indecent but citing free speech and the lack of any disturbance.
When the words were later played on a New York radio station, they resulted in a 1978 Supreme Court ruling upholding the government's authority to sanction stations for broadcasting offensive language during hours when children might be listening.
He produced 23 comedy albums, 14 HBO specials, three books, a couple of TV shows and appeared in several movies, from his own
comedy specials to "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" in 1989 - a testament to his range from cerebral satire and cultural commentary to downright silliness (and sometimes hitting all points in one stroke).
He won four Grammy Awards, each for best spoken comedy album,
and was nominated for five Emmy awards. On Tuesday, it was
announced that Carlin was being awarded the 11th annual Mark Twain
Prize for American Humor, which will be presented Nov. 10 in
Washington and broadcast on PBS.
Carlin's first wife, Brenda, died in 1997. He is survived by wife Sally Wade; daughter Kelly Carlin McCall; son-in-law Bob McCall; brother Patrick Carlin; and sister-in-law Marlene Carlin.