June 22, 2008, Santa Monica, California. Comedian and satirist George Carlin died sunday evening after checking into a Santa Monica hospital complaining of chest pains. He was 71.

Carlin was a brilliant social satirist and comic. He had the ability to look at ordinary things from a different angle and see the obvious obsurdity in things most of us accept as simple background noise. This is one of the key attributes of a successful satirist and comedian.

I think it’s the duty of the comedian to find out where the line is drawn and cross it deliberately. 

The very existence of flamethrowers proves that some time, somewhere, someone said to themselves, “You know, I want to set those people over there on fire, but I’m just not close enough to get the job done.”

I went to a bookstore and asked the saleswoman, “Where’s the self-help section?” She said if she told me, it would defeat the purpose.

There’s no present. There’s only the immediate future and the recent past.

Not only do I not know what’s going on, I wouldn’t know what to do about it if I did.

-George Carlin

Carlin was a serial quipster who pushed the boundaries of social norms. His Seven Dirty Words ended up as the center of a 1978 Supreme Court ruling that affirmed the right of the state to bar “indecent” of speech on the public airwaves.

While it is common for contemporary comedians to exploit “indecent” speech for shock value today, few seem to have the facility with language that Carlin had. He was able to reduce to a few short humorous sentences the dark uncertainties that many of us have with common subjects.  Carlin’s observations on taboo subjects put him well ahead of his time.