Bleep! Bleep! George Carlin To Receive Mark Twain Humor Prize

The 71-year-old comic is known for his
The 71-year-old comic is known for his "Seven Dirty Words" routine, which got the attention of the U.S. Supreme Court. (By Robert Sebree -- Associated Press)
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By Jacqueline Trescott
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A comic quiz:

Who was the first host ever of "Saturday Night Live"?

Who appeared with Doris Day in "With Six You Get Eggroll"?

And who has appeared on "The Tonight Show" more than 130 times?

If you answered George Carlin, you perhaps have spent too much time listening to his 22 albums or watching his 14 specials on HBO, or are a true, true fan.

In the comic spotlight for more than 50 years, Carlin was tapped yesterday by the Kennedy Center to receive this year's Mark Twain Prize, a lifetime achievement award presented to an outstanding comedian.

Carlin, 71, reinvented social commentary, discussing everything from religion and politics to airport security. He excelled at stand-up, whether at the Roostertail in Detroit, the old Cellar Door in Washington or Carnegie Hall. His three books have been bestsellers. He has won four Grammy Awards, spanning 1973 to 2002. His TV shows have been nominated for five Emmys.

The Kennedy Center said his material and style made him a perfect Twain recipient.

"In his lengthy career as a comedian, writer and actor, George Carlin has not only made us laugh, but he makes us think. His influence on the next generation of comics has been far-reaching," said Stephen A. Schwarzman, the center's chairman.

Carlin issued a statement saying, "Thank you Mr. Twain. Have your people call my people."

He once summed up his approach: "I think it is the duty of the comedian to find out where the line is drawn and cross it deliberately."

One milestone in his career was the "Seven Dirty Words" controversy that became part of a U.S. Supreme Court case in 1978. Carlin listed seven words that couldn't be used on television in a 1972 album called "Class Clown" and he was arrested for obscenity when he performed the routine in Wisconsin. Then Carlin resurrected the list on his next album, which was played on radio station WBAI in New York. A listener complained to the Federal Communications Commission and eventually the Supreme Court said the routine was indecent but not obscene and the words could be banned from radio and television broadcasts when children are most likely to be in the audience. Thus, the 6 a.m.-10 p.m. rule against airing indecent material.

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