A Great American Icon Is Lost

Yesterday, another great American was lost to heart disease, barely a week after a heart attack claimed the life of newsman Tim Russert. George Carlin, 71, died Sunday evening of heart failure at a Santa Monica hospital after complaining of chest pain earlier in the day. Carlin, best known for his “Seven Words You Can Never Say On TV,” got his start in the 1960s on the Tonight Show with Jack Parr and went on to later host the first episode of Saturday Night Live. In the 1970s he abandonded his mild-mannered comedy and took to more biting comedy that he is known for today, earning him the distinction of “Dean of Counterculture Comedy.” His “Seven Words” skit also led to a Supreme Court ruling affirming the government’s power to restrict certain offensive speech. On Tuesday, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts announced that George Carlin would receive the 11th Annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. During his roughly four decade career, he produced 23 comedy albums and 14 HBO specials, and had appeared as recently as June 15.