In sad news out of Hollywood, legendary comedian, actor and author George Carlin succumbed to heart failure on Sunday, passing away at the age of 71.
According to Reuters news service, Carlin died early Sunday evening at Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif., where he’d been admitted earlier in the day after experiencing pains in his chest.
With his edgy, often profane, rants about everything from drugs to sex to politics to… well, "stuff," the one-time Air Force enlistee rose to prominence in the ’60s and quickly became one of the country’s best-known, and in some circles most-reviled, performers. Perhaps his most famous routine, "Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television," ended up being at the core of a 1978 US Supreme Court case against one radio outlet that dared to broadcast it.
From marijuana to cocaine to wine and painkillers, Carlin made no attempt to hide his life-long love-hate battle with substance abuse and alcohol, often discussing these topics at length to sold-out audiences around the country, or on any of his 14 highly-rated HBO specials. In 2004, he entered rehab to deal with an addiction to vicodin.
"No one told me I needed this," he said at the time. "I recognized the problem and took the step myself."
In addition to his work as a comedian, Carlin was also an accomplished and versatile actor, appearing in such varied fare as Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and The Prince of Tides. Most recently, he had given voice to Fillmore, the VW bus in the animated Pixar film Cars.
He was also the author of numerous humor books, including Brain Droppings, Napalm & Silly Putty and most recently When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops?
Carlin, who lost his first wife Brenda to cancer in 1997, is survived by second wife Sally Wade and daughter Kelly Carlin McCall.