If you haven't yet heard, George Carlin died of heart failure yesterday in St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica at the age of 71. In that time, the prolific stand-up and actor produced 23 comedy albums, 14 HBO specials, and three books—to say nothing of having saved the universe by helping the founding members of Wyld Stallyns pass history. In a poignant twist (as if we needed one), it was recently announced that Carlin would be the recipient of the 11th Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, scheduled to have been presented in a PBS-televised presentation on Nov. 11.
Carlin was a social commentator, an aggravator, and an etymologist, but first and foremost, he was funny. The routine to which he'll be forever associated was "Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television," (full text here), which wasn't necessarily his best, but would wind up getting him arrested in Milwaukee in 1972 on obscenity charges, instantly elevating the bit to the pantheon of Sacred Dangerous Comic Texts. The routine's airing on New York radio would later be cited by the U.S. Supreme Court in a 1978 ruling on FCC broadcast fines. No reactionary comic could ever have asked for more.
Gawker collects seven memorable monologues, including "Seven Words," rightly observing that there would be no Lewis Blacks or Bill Mahers—or Bill Hickses, for that matter—without Carlin. But for us at least, it was in his simplest observations about language—such as in this classic bit above contrasting the blithe terminology of baseball to football's inherent fascism (parks vs. stadiums, caps vs. helmets, ups vs. downs)—where his true genius was on display.