George Carlin passed away of heart failure on Sunday at age 71, and the obituaries and rememberances are pouring in -- including one from NBC News correspondent John Larson. WATCH VIDEO
Everyone always mentions Carlin's "Seven Words You Can't Say on Television" routine, and it certainly was a big deal and groundbreaking.
But his real legacy was as an innovator and role model to a generation of comedians that rose to prominence in the 1970s and afterward.
As Richard Zoglin writes in his 2008 book, Comedy at the Edge, Carlin played a crucial role in shepherding stand-up comedy from Borscht Belt schtick to topical material and social commentary, a legacy that continues every night, when "The Daily Show" airs.
When he ditched his suit, tie and clean-cut image in 1970, he started a revolution that took Lenny Bruce's edgier, biting comedy to a broader audience (he would appear on "The Tonight Show" 130 times).
Carlin's forays into the "corporate entertainment structure," as he called it -- Hollywood, essentially -- were not as successful. I remember watching "The George Carlin Show," which aired in 1994-95, and it was terrible (but co-starred Alex Rocco, who played Mo Greene in The Godfather).
Although few -- if any -- obituaries will mention it, I'll always think of him as Rufus in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. But maybe I'm the only one.
I'll also make sure to walk into a gift shop today and demand to know where my gift is, then muse on the differences between baseball and football. And yes, I'll probably swear a lot, too.