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George Carlin, who started working as a comedian in 1960 and who became over the next five decades one of the leading practitioners of edgy, subversive humor, die yesterday of heart failure in Santa Monica, California. He was 71.

It was just five days ago that Carlin – who produced 23 comedy albums, 14 HBO specials and three books – had been announced as the winner of the 11th annual Mark Twain prize for American Humor, awarded each year by the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.

KC's View:
When I read of Carlin’s death this morning, I immediately listened to perhaps his most famous stand-up routine – “Seven Words You Can't Say On Television” – which I keep on my iPod for those moments when I need a laugh. And as usual, Carlin didn’t fail me – that seven-minute bit is among the funniest things I’ve ever heard as he runs roughshod over a culture that demonizes seven words that “will infect your soul, curve your spine and keep the country from winning the war.” (It was also that routine that got him arrested for indecency, a case that ended up in the Supreme Court.)

If you want to see Carlin at his best, watch ‘The Aristocrats,” which is the hysterically funny (and really, really dirty) documentary made about the funniest and most vulgar joke in the history of the planet. Essentially, the movie features dozens of comedians doing their own version of the joke…but Carlin, more than the others, tells the joke while deconstructing it, giving a master class in humor.

Much of Carlin’s stuff was not for people with delicate sensibilities. But he was enormously, infectiously funny…not to mention sharply observant and, perhaps most importantly, truthful. He’ll be missed.