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Mark Twain The Eleventh Annual Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize celebrating the life and humor of George Carlin
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Recipient George Carlin

George Carlin was a Grammy-winning American stand-up comedian, actor, and author. Throughout his extraordinary career, Carlin released twenty-two solo albums and three books, which were each on The New York Times Best-Seller List. The five-time Emmy nominated actor starred in fourteen HBO Specials and appeared in a wide variety of television and movie roles. He was the first host of “Saturday Night Live,” and appeared on “The Tonight Show” over 130 times. Carlin received a Hollywood Walk of Fame star in 1987, and was inducted into the Comedy Hall of Fame in 1994.

George Carlin was born in New York City, New York, the son of Mary and Patrick Carlin. He grew up in Manhattan and was raised by his mother. He began his career in radio in July, 1956 at age 19 while serving in the United States Air Force in Louisiana. In 1960 he and friend Jack Burns quit radio to appear together in nightclubs as “Burns and Carlin.” For two years they played leading comedy clubs and made an appearance on “The Tonight Show” with Jack Paar. The duo split in 1962 so Carlin could pursue a solo career in comedy.

In 1961 Carlin married Brenda Hosbrook whom he had met while touring the previous year in her parents’ living room in Dayton, Ohio. The couple had a daughter, Kelly, in 1963. They were married until Brenda’s death in 1997.

In his early solo comedy career, Carlin balanced mainstream material with outspoken, irreverent routines that would become his trademark. In the mid-1960s he began to make a number of television appearances. His first album, Take-Offs and Put-Ons, was released in 1967 on RCA Victor. He appeared with Doris Day in the film With Six You Get Egg-Roll in 1967, as well as television shows including “Ed Sullivan,” “Carol Burnett,” “Tom Jones,” “Jackie Gleason,” and “Steve Allen”.

In 1972 Carlin released the comedy album FM & AM, on Little David Records which won a Grammy Award and was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America. It was the first of four successive Gold records that he would release during the first half of the 1970s. Carlin recorded 18 albums of stand-up comedy and four audiobooks. Ten of his albums were nominated for Grammy Awards.

George Carlin found wide exposure through cable television. In 1977 he taped On Location: George Carlin at USC for HBO, which was first in a long line of specials for the cable channel. In 1992 Jammin’ in New York was broadcast live from the Paramount Theater at Madison Square Garden.

In 1989 Carlin grew popular with a new generation of fans when he was cast as Rufus, in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and reprised his role in the film sequel Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey as well as the first season of the cartoon series. In 1991 he acquired an even younger audience when he provided the narrative voice for the American version of the children’s show “Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends,” which he continued until 1998. He played “Mr. Conductor” on the critically-acclaimed PBS children’s show “Shining Time Station” for which he picked up two Emmy Award nominations.

In 1999 Carlin appeared in Kevin Smith’s cult classic film Dogma. He worked with Smith again with a cameo appearance in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, and in Jersey Girl. In addition to comedy, George Carlin held serious movie acting roles. In 1991 Carlin had a major supporting role in the movie The Prince of Tides, starring Nick Nolte and Barbra Streisand. In Kevin Smith’s serious 2004 film Jersey Girl, Carlin played the prominent role of Ben Affleck’s character’s father. It was Carlin’s 11th feature film.

In 1997 Hyperion published his first book, Brain Droppings, a collection of original routines, one-liners, commentaries, and essays. In hard cover and paperback, the book spent a total of 40 weeks on The New York Times best-seller list and has sold nearly 900,000 copies. The “book-on-tape” version, read by Carlin himself, won the 2001 Grammy in the Best Spoken Comedy category. His two subsequent books, Napalm & Silly Putty and When Will Jesus Bring The Pork Chops?, were hits. Sales to date of his books are just over two million.

Before his death, George Carlin performed 90 concerts around the country per year, selling nearly a quarter of a million tickets. Additionally, he made about eight visits annually to Las Vegas, where he performed four-day weekends at the Orleans Hotel, considered by many comics as the best comedy venue in Las Vegas.

In November 2008, Laugh.com released the CD debut of Carlin On Campus, long out of print since the original LP release in 1984. Later that month, MPI Home Video released It’s Bad For Ya, Carlin’s Emmy nominated 14th and final HBO special from March 2008 on DVD.

To learn more about George Carlin, visit www.GeorgeCarlin.com.

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