Monday, June 23, 2008

Al Sleet, the hippy dippy weatherman, expires

George Carlin, a brilliant comedian and social commentator, has gone on to perform on that celestial stage, a place where, perhaps, he can finally say the seven words you can't say on TV. Carlin, 71, started his career as a conventional stand-up comedian of some note in the early Sixties. But it was when he started turning his act towards using social commentary and appealing to the generation influenced by drugs and the Vietnam War that Carlin's impact as a funnyman became so profound. Carlin was the first host of "Saturday Night Live" and he appeared on The Tonight Show more than 130 times. Just last week the Kennedy Center had announced that Carlin was the recipient of the Mark Twain Award for lifetime achievement as a comedian. Carlin, who admitted he had a long record of drug usage finally announced in 2004 that he was entering rehab for alcohol and the pain killer Vicodin. It may have been the last stand of one of the leading comics of the Love Generation that was born out of Haight Ashbury and Woodstock. Carlin won four Grammy Awards for several of his 23 comedy albums. Growing up with Carlin's comedy albums was a right of passage for me and others of my generation. His "Class Clown" album with its "Seven Words You Can't Say on TV" was one I recall playing over and over again. Busted for obscenity in Wisconsin when he uttered those words on stage, Carlin's routine ended up in the U.S. Supreme Court, which upheld the government's right to censor comments of that ilk. An actor in several movies including "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" and Doris Day's "Please Don't Eat the Daisies," Carlin proved to be a great presence on screen, but it was on stage in a live setting where he thrived. In recent years he began writing more books and had three successful comic commentaries make the top sellers charts. Carlin was a unique character and a bit of an irreverent rogue, but he was loved by millions and will be missed.

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