Comedian George Carlin never lost his edge. Many years ago I purchased and played again and again his "FM & AM" record album, and gosh, if there were things to rant about in 1972, you can see why he continued to have a thriving career right up until his death. The state of the world never ceased to give Carlin more material than any sage and savage comedian could ever use, and he took full advantage of it. As he became sort of the elder statesman of rage comedy, his shows didn't bring as many laughs, perhaps, but instead rueful exhalations and dismayed shaking of our heads as we agreed with his often bitter but usually dead-on takes on what ails us and the world around us. (Check out this excellent analysis of Carlin's radical comedy, by John Nichols, on The Nation's site.)
Here's a clip from The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson at the time of Carlin's FM & AM album --
His comedy concerts became staples on HBO, and maybe not all of us remember that he had an eponymous sitcom back in early 1994 on Fox. (You can watch some of the episodes on AOL's IN2TV.) Here's a pretty grim but dead-on bit from one of his HBO specials. It's almost hard to call it comedy, really, but at least it's a cogent political rant from a comedian, which is good enough provenance for me.
The world needs angry young men and women, and angry old men and women, and we just lost one of them. George Carlin, dead at 71.
(6/24 Update -- HBO has announced a two-evening tribute to Carlin on HBO2. This Wednesday and Thursday they'll be running a selection of his comedy specials, starting at 8pm. The first ones up date back to the late 1970s, so this will be a wonderful opportunity to see Carlin's progression as a stand-up and the growth of his political acuity. The full line-up is here.)