Known for his casual approach to vulgarity, George Carlin executed “The Seven Words You Can Never Say on TV” as well as the more innocent “Baseball and Football” routine.

Mr. Carlin was the first man to host Saturday Night Live and starred in 14 HBO specials in 30 years of a comedy career spanning almost half a century.

He was irreverent, sacrilegious, satirical, controversial, inspirational, hilarious and beloved, and he died Sunday in Santa Monica, Calif. He was 71 and suffered heart failure.

It wasn’t just dirty jokes and stage shows. Mr. Carlin put out 23 feature-length albums, appeared in 16 movies and wrote five books.

He is the godfather of counterculture, a well from which all modern practitioners of political, observational, and dark humor draw their water.

Mr. Carlin was arrested in Milwaukee in 1972 for uttering all seven of his “Words You Can Never say on TV.” He won four Grammy Awards. He denounced religion. He was Mr. Conductor on “Shining Time Station.”

Mr. Carlin took some inspiration from The Marx Brothers, Spike Jones and Jerry Lewis and created his own unique style of black humor — vigorously offensive to some but entirely hilarious to many. But Mr. Carlin should not and will not go down in history as a dirty-mouthed comedian. There may never been a better observationist comedian. He had a very simple way of pointing out the flaws in modern American society and made sure we knew about it.

Chris Rock, Jon Stewart, Dennis Miller, Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Maher were all influenced in different ways by Mr. Carlin and his comedy.

Born in New York on May 12, 1937, Mr. Carlin dropped out of high school at age 14 and was kicked out of the Air Force in 1957. In 1959 he began preforming routines with fellow comedian Jack Burns. He appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and “The Tonight Show” many times throughout the 60s.

Mr. Carlin is predeceased by his wife, Brenda Hosbrook.

About The Author

John Guilfoil is the editor-in-chief of Blast: Boston's Online Magazine and the Blast Magazine Network. He can be reached at [email protected]. Tweet @johnguilfoil.

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