Legendary Comedian George Carlin Dies of Heart Failure

by Mark Barger

NBC News

A legend in the world of stand up comedy has passed away.

George Carlin died Saturday evening in California from heart failure.  He was 71.

Carlin was counterculture, irreverence personified.

For more than 50 years, Carlin's observational humor fueled books, comedy albums and numerous TV specials.

But it was one routine that made Carlin a comedy legend.

"Seven words you can never say on television" landed Carlin in jail following a 1972 concert on a charge of disturbing the peace.

The "Seven Dirty Words" routine led to a Supreme Court ruling in 1978 that upheld the government's right to sanction broadcasters for airing obscene language.

Carlin's career started with a very traditional appeal in the late fifties and early sixties.

But the clean cut look gave way to long hair and a beard and in 1975, Carlin was Saturday Night Live's first ever host.

A performance he later admitted was under the influence of cocaine.

Despite Carlin's appeal to grown ups, He'd also lent his voice to many kid friendly projects in recent years, including the animated hit "Cars".

But it was George Carlin's very adult comedy that will be his legacy.

Carlin appeared on the "Tonight Show" 130 times.