Famed for his landmark Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television routine, George Carlin filled the void created by the death of Lenny Bruce, honing a provocative, scathing comic style which bravely explored the limits of free speech and good taste.
George Dennis Carlin was born in the Bronx in 1937. While serving a stint in the military, in Shreveport, Louisiana, he began working as a disc jockey on a Shreveport morning show in 1955. His fellow radio personality was comedian Jack Burns. The duo began performing in clubs as a comedy team. They made their recorded debut in 1960 with a live show consisting of their rendition of Lenny Bruce's Dijinni in the Candy Store routine along with a spot-on impersonation of Mort Sahl and the sketch of Captain Jack and Jolly George, a spoof of children's shows inviting young girls to "send for your Lolita kit."
Eventually George and Jack broke up and the album was not released until many years later under the name of The Original George Carlin. Striking out on his own, George's initial work cast him a clean-cut, straitlaced performer. His proper solo debut in 1967's Take Offs and Put Ons, offered clever mild-mannered routines like Wonderful WINO, about a mindless disc jockey. That same year he was also tapped to co-star in Away We Go, a summer replacement series for The Jackie Gleason Show.
During the 60's George began appearing on television variety shows, notably The Ed Sullivan Show. His most famous routines included The Indian Sergeant (You wit' the beads…get outta line); Stupid Disc Jockeys (Wonderful WINO); Al Sleet the "hippie-dippie weatherman" and Jon Carson the "world never known, and never to be known."
In 1961 George became a popular and frequent performer and guest on The Tonight Show during the Johnny Carson era, becoming one of Carson's most frequent substitutes during the host's three-decade reign.
In the 1970s George changed his routines and his appearance. Sporting a beard, earrings and dressing strangely, George lost some television bookings but regained his popularity as the public caught on to his sense of style.
During this period he also perfected what is perhaps his best-known routine, Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television, a routine which offended some. George was arrested in 1972 at a Milwaukee Summer fest and was charged with violating obscenity laws after performing this routine.
In 1975 George was the first-ever host of NBC's Saturday Night Live. The following season, George also appeared regularly on the Tony Orlando and Dawn variety show. During this period, he also became known for unpredictable performances. He would walk off if no one laughed, verbally insult the audience, or simply not appear.
By the late 80's, George had become popular with a new generation of teens when he was cast as Rufus, the mentor of the titular characters in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure and reprised his role in the film sequel Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey as well as the first season of the cartoon series. In 1991, he provided the narrative voice for the American version of the children's show Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends, and he also played Mr. Conductor, on the PBS children's show Shining Time Station.
In 2001, George was given a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 15th Annual American Comedy Awards. In 2004, he was ranked #2 on Comedy Central's 100 greatest stand-ups of all time lists, just behind Richard Pryor.
As a staunch atheist, George has often denounced the idea of God in interviews and performances, most notably with his Invisible Man in the Sky and There Is No God routines. In mockery, he invented the parody religion Frisbeetarianism for a newspaper contest. He defined it as the belief that when one dies "his soul gets flung onto a roof, and just stays there, and cannot be retrieved.
George has also facetiously stated he worships the Sun, because he can actually see it, but prays to Joe Pesci because "he's a good actor," and looks like a guy who can get things done!, and praying to him has approximately the same 50% success rate as praying to God."