George Carlin (1937)
It was on this date, May 12, 1937, that stand-up comedy Hall of Famer George Carlin was born George Denis Patrick Carlin in The Bronx, New York City. He attended Catholic schools there, but left early. In a 1995 interview Carlin said, “I credit that eight years of grammar school with nourishing me in a direction where I could trust myself and trust my instincts. They gave me the tools to reject my faith.” Carlin minces no words about his Atheism, as he said in 1999:
When it comes to bullshit, big-time, major league bullshit, you have to stand in awe of the all-time champion of false promises and exaggerated claims, religion. No contest. Religion has actually convinced people that there’s an invisible man living in the sky who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a special list of ten things he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever ’til the end of time! But He loves you, and He needs money!
Notable as a social critic, after his inspiration, Lenny Bruce, Carlin’s his “Seven Dirty Words” comedy routine* brought about the 1978 U.S. Supreme Court case F.C.C. v. Pacifica Foundation, in which the Court affirmed the government’s power to abridge free speech when is includes “indecent” material on the public airwaves.
Before his death on 22 June 2008, Carlin had won five Grammy Awards for his comedy albums and the 2008 Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. George Carlin summed up his feeling about Christianity by saying, “I would never want to be a member of a group whose symbol was a guy nailed to two pieces of wood.”
*”Shit, Piss, Fuck, Cunt, Cocksucker, Motherfucker, and Tits. Those are the heavy seven. Those are the ones that’ll infect your soul, curve your spine and keep the country from winning the war.” – George Carlin, Class Clown, “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television” (1972). The Supreme Court ruled six years later the recorded routine “indecent but not obscene.”
Originally published May 2003 by Ronald Bruce Meyer.