Comedian George Carlin, a counter-culture hero famed for his routines about drugs and dirty words, died of heart failure at a Los Angeles-area hospital yesterday (June 22). He was 71.
Carlin, who had a history of heart and drug-dependency problems, died at Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica at about 6 p.m. PT after being admitted earlier in the afternoon for chest pains, spokesman Jeff Abraham said.
Known for his edgy, provocative material, Carlin achieved status as an anti-Establishment icon in the 1970s with stand-up bits full of drug references and a routine called "Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television."
A regulatory battle over a radio broadcast of the routine ultimately reached the U.S. Supreme Court. In the 1978 case, Federal Communications Commission vs. Pacifica Foundation, the top U.S. court ruled that the words cited in Carlin's routine were indecent, and that the government's broadcast regulator could ban them from being aired at times when children might be listening.
Carlin's comedic sensibility often came back to a central theme: humanity is doomed. "I don't have any beliefs or allegiances. I don't believe in this country, I don't believe in religion, or a god, and I don't believe in all these man-made institutional ideas," he told Reuters in a 2001 interview.
Carlin, who wrote several books and performed in many television comedy specials, is survived by his wife, Sally Wade, and daughter Kelly Carlin McCall.