George Carlin

George Carlin

Date of birth: 12-05-1937
George Carlin was born and raised in New York.,dropped out of high school and enlisted in the Air Force as a radar technician, during which time he started working as a radio disc jockey, off base.

He began his comedy career in in the late Fifties, with a conventional act that revolved around wordplay and reminiscences of his working-class upbringing in New York. He teamed up with Jack Burns, and played the conservative nightclub circuit for a couple of years

But in 1962 Carlin saw Lenny Bruce get arrested for a drug joke in Chicago. The encounter made an impact on Carlin. Toward the end of the decade, he grew his hair, ditched his suits and worked on a harder-hitting, more honest routine with references to drugs and sex.

There was a backlash from the lucrative nightclub circuit he had been working, and bookings dried up.

But he quickly found new fans in among youngsters, and started play colleges and ‘counterculture’ coffee houses, which allowed him to rebuild his career. His second album, FM & AM, released in 1972, had older material on the AM side with bolder, routines on the FM side.

He later said: ‘I was doing superficial comedy entertaining people who didn’t really care: Businessmen, people in nightclubs, conservative people. And I had been doing that for the better part of ten years when it finally dawned on me that I was in the wrong place doing the wrong things for the wrong people.’

In 1972, he also recorded the routine for which he became most famous – the controversial Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television He was arrested for obscenity for performing it in 1972, On July 21, 1972, at Milwaukee's Summerfest, but the case was dismissed.

Its later airing on a New York radio station in the middle of the afternoon led to a groundbreaking US Supreme Court case in 1978, which led to a nationwide 10pm watershed for indecent material. Of the case, Carlin said: ‘My name is a footnote in American legal history, which I'm perversely kind of proud of.’

Carlin was the first ever host of Saturday Night Live, in 1975, and over his long career recorded 23 albums of stand-up, 14 HBO specials and made 130 appearances on The Tonight Show, as well as writing three books of humorous observations.

Drug addiction, particularly cocaine, plagued him for much of his life; and in the Eighties, Carlin survived a heart attack, two open-heart surgeries and serious tax problems.

In the Nineties he branched into acting, appearing in the Barbra Streisand movie Prince of Tides, Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure and Dogma. He even provided the voiceover for Thomas The Tank Engine in the US.

In 2004, Comedy Central named him the second best stand-up comedian of all time, behind Richard Pryor. But at the end of the year he had to take two months off touring to go into rehab for his addictions to Vicodin and red wine.

And in 2008 it was announced that he would be awarded t the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, but he died the week after it the news broke, of heart failure. He had been working just a week before his death, at the age of 71.

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Priest objects to George Carlin tribute

'Vulgar comic's a bad role model'

Plans to name a New York Street after George Carlin have hit problems – after a local priest complained the comedian was too ‘vulgar’ to be honoured.

More than 6,500 people signed a petition requesting a section of West121st Street where Carlin grew up be renamed in his his memory.

But Rev. Raymond Rafferty, of Corpus Christi, and about 40 of his congregation protested the plan at a community meeting.

The priest said of Carlin: ‘His vulgarity is very strong, and that is not a good role model for children.’

He complained that if approved, the street sign would go up directly in front of the Catholic church’s school.

Comedian Kevin Bartini, who lives in the area, tried to argue the case – but admitted he found it difficult.

‘I have played some tough rooms in my day,’ he said, ‘but a room full of ladies who have never heard of George Carlin was among the more interesting.’

The chair of the district committee suggested Carlin’s supporters stop their campaign unless they can win over the church. Their grievances are said to include the contention that ‘George Carlin didn't live there, didn’t die there and didn’t do anything to help the neighbourhood.’

Although he died in California, Carlin did live on West 121 Street for 20 years – and even went to the Corpus Christi School.

He enjoyed his time there, once saying: ‘In the 1940s, I attended a school still in existence:  Corpus Christi in New York City.  It was not a typical Catholic grammar school education. For one thing, we had boys and girls together.  We did not wear uniforms.  The desks were all movable.  And, there were no report cards - no grades or report cards of any kind.  It was a garden; it was a place that let me flower.’

The pro-Carlin campaigners said: ‘We are happy with the results so far and are planing our next moves.’

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Published: 9 Oct 2011

Carlin in rehab

Veteran American stand-up George Carlin has checked…



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