George Denis Patrick Carlin (May 12, 1937 ā€“ June 22, 2008) was an American comedian, social critic, actor, and author. Carlin was noted for his black comedy and his thoughts on politics, the English language, psychology, religion, and various taboo subjects. Carlin and his “Seven dirty words” comedy routine were central to the 1978 U.S. Supreme Court case F.C.C. v. Pacifica Foundation, in which a 5ā€“4 decision by the justices affirmed the government’s power to regulate indecent material on the public airwaves.

He is widely regarded as one of the most important and influential stand-up comedians of all time: one newspaper called Carlin “the dean of counterculture comedians.” In 2004, Carlin was placed second on the Comedy Central list of the 100 greatest stand-up comedians, ahead of Lenny Bruce and behind Richard Pryor. The first of his 14 stand-up comedy specials for HBO was filmed in 1977. From the late 1980s, Carlin’s routines focused on sociocultural criticism of modern American society. He often commented on contemporary political issues in the United States and satirized the excesses of American culture. He was a frequent performer and guest host on The Tonight Show during the three-decade Johnny Carson era, and hosted the first episode of Saturday Night Live. His final HBO special, It’s Bad for Ya, was filmed less than four months before his death. In 2008, he was posthumously awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.

George Denis Patrick Carlin was born in Manhattan, New York. He was the younger son of The Sun advertising manager Patrick Carlin (1888ā€“1945) an immigrant from County Donegal, Ireland and secretary Mary Beary (born c. 1905), who was an American of Irish ancestry. While he came from a Catholic family, Carlin himself rejected religion. His parents separated when he was two months old due to his father’s alcoholism. Mary subsequently raised George and his older brother Patrick Jr. (born October 1, 1931) herself. His maternal grandfather, Dennis Bearey, was an Irish immigrant who worked as a New York City policeman. One immigrant grandmother’s maiden name was originally O’Grady, he recalled, but it changed to Grady before she reached America. “They’d dropped the O in the ocean on the way here,” he said. He would later name his character on The George Carlin Show O’Grady as an homage. Carlin said he picked up an appreciation for the effective use of the English language from his mother, with whom he had a difficult relationship; he often ran away from home.

He grew up on West 121st Street, in a neighborhood of Manhattan he said he and his friends called “White Harlem”, because that “sounded a lot tougher than its real name” of Morningside Heights. He attended Corpus Christi School, a Roman Catholic parish school of the Corpus Christi Church, in Morningside Heights. After three semesters, Carlin involuntarily left Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx at age 15. He briefly attended Bishop Dubois High School in Harlem and the Salesian High School in Goshen, NY. He spent many summers at Camp Notre Dame on Spofford Lake in Spofford, New Hampshire. He regularly won the camp’s drama award, and specified that after his death a portion of his ashes be spread at the lake.

Carlin joined the United States Air Force when he was old enough, and was trained as a radar technician. He was stationed at Barksdale Air Force Base in Bossier City, Louisiana. He also began working as a disc jockey at radio station KJOE, in nearby Shreveport. Labeled an “unproductive airman” by his superiors, Carlin was discharged early on July 29, 1957. During his time in the Air Force he had been court martialed three times, and also received many nonjudicial punishments.

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