George Carlin passed away last night from heart failure. Carlin was a legend, a comic genius, and a true original. His importance to the cause of free speech and as a nonconformist icon cannot be overstated.
I had the special privilege of seeing him live twice. The first was in Las Vegas several years ago, right after his wife had died. The show was full of energy and anger, yet smooth, flawless and groundbreaking. That was probably the best live comedy I've ever seen.
The second time was right after he had heart surgery, and his performance, while always strong, exhibited a fatigue that showed Carlin was not his old self. From what I heard, though, he eventually recovered well from the surgery and was performing actively up until his death.
I like to say that Carlin's greatest talent was his ability to seamlessly insult the audience, while making them love every minute of it. But he wasn't an insult comic -- he was an observational comic, an expressionist, a linguist and a poet. He was a perfectionist on stage, and his timing and mastery of his material were impeccable. George, we'll miss you.