George Carlin has last laugh

The comedy world lost one of its best yesterday, as famed comedian George Carlin passed away at the age of 71, reports The Associated Press. Carlin, who had performed on a Las Vegas stage just a week ago, complained of chest pain yesterday and died of heart failure in Santa Monica that evening.

Carlin is arguably one of the greatest to grace the stage, peppering intelligent, scathing social commentary with dirty jokes and foul language. His comedy albums earned him four Grammy awards, and his television specials received five Emmy nominations--one as recently as 2006.

Carlin challenged button-up convention with his most famous routine, "Seven Words You Can Never Say on TV," an act for which Milwaukee police slapped him with charges of disturbing the peace in 1972 because of its content. The Supreme Court eventually got involved in the controversy when a New York radio station played the routine in 1978, and ruled that the government has the right to regulate language on radio during times when kids may be listening in.

"So my name is a footnote in American legal history, which I'm perversely kind of proud of," Carlin told The Associated Press earlier this year.

Saturday Night Live chose Carlin as its first host in October 1975, and he went on to do numerous television spots, including his own show in 1994 and more than 130 appearances on The Tonight Show. He also provided the voice of the narrator on Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends and played the time-traveling mentor Rufus in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure.

The great George Carlin, dead at 71.

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