How much was George Carlin worth?

Net Worth:$10 Million
Profession:Professional Comedian
Date of Birth:May 12, 1937 (age 71)
Country:United States of America
1.74 m

Who Is George Carlin

Along with Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor, George Carlin helped define modern stand-up comedy. Practically defining the term “edgy,” Carlin always pushed the limits of what comedy could be. His material was often political; more than that, Carlin was the master of “sociological” comedy. He was an expert at calling attention to the things people take for granted, pointing out hypocrisies in human behavior He loved language, and often dissected the meanings of words and phrases in his act. As time went on, his act became increasingly dark and angry, but he never lost his talent as one of our best social critics.

American stand-up comedian, actor, social critic, and author George Carlin had a net worth of $10 million dollars at the time of his death, in 2008. Dubbed “the dean of counterculture comedians”, Carlin was one of the most influential stand-up comics of all time.

Quick Facts

  • Carlin is a native of New York City.
  • During his career, Carlin released 23 comedy albums, 14 HBO specials and three best-selling books.
  • He won four Comedy and Spoken Comedy Grammys from 1973 to 2002.
  • Carlin was arrested in 1972 after a performance of his famous “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television” routine.
  • He hosted the first episode of Saturday Night Live in 1975.
  • In 2008, it was announced that Carlin would receive the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. The announcement came just four days before his death on June 22.
  • Born: May 12, 1937 Died: June 22, 2008

In the Beginning

Born in Manhattan in 1937, George Denis Patrick Carlin was a rebel from a very young age. Raised Roman Catholic primarily by a single mother, Carlin dropped out of school at age 14 and eventually joined the Air Force. After working for several years as a disc jockey, Carlin began to try his hand at comedy. In 1960, he formed a duo with fellow comic Jack Burns; they worked together for two years and released an album, called Burns and Carlin at the Playboy Club Tonight.

George Carlin Reborn

Going it alone in 1962, Carlin released his first solo album, Take-Offs and Put-Ons in 1966. During that time, he was relatively straitlaced, appearing in a jacket and tie during numerous television appearances from The Ed Sullivan Show to The Tonight Show.

As he entered the 1970s, Carlin began a radical transformation that would change comedy forever. Responding to the social and political upheaval of the times, Carlin grew his hair long and began attacking institutions like the government and organized religion. In the process, the once-again rebellious Carlin became the comedic voice of a generation.

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Seven Dirty Words

In 1972, Carlin came up with what would eventually be his most famous routine: “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television.” The bit, which focused on the arbitrary nature of censorship, got Carlin arrested on charges of obscenity after a Milwaukee performance in 1972. The case was eventually thrown out, but the routine played a significant role in a U.S. Supreme Court case that ultimately upheld the FCC’s ability to regulate “indecent” programming on public airwaves. Carlin’s battles against the establishment helped make him even more popular among young audiences.


After establishing himself as a counterculture icon, Carlin went off the radar for a while. In the late ’70s, his appearances were infrequent — though he did produce his first two HBO specials, Carlin at USC and George Carlin: Again! in 1977 and 1978. It was during this self-imposed “break” that Carlin suffered his first heart attack.

By 1981, Carlin came roaring back to form, releasing his album A Place for My Stuff and his newest HBO special, Carlin at Carnegie, in ’81 and ’82. From that point on, Carlin would release an album and/or and HBO special every one to two years for the rest of his career.

Carlin Acts

In addition to a prolific stand-up career, Carlin worked regularly in film and television throughout the ’80s, 90’s and 2000s. He played supporting roles in comedies like Outrageous Fortune and Kevin Smith’s Dogma, as well as dramas such as The Prince of Tides and Jersey Girl. His most famous role was probably that of Rufus, the time-traveling guide in the two Bill and Ted films.

The always-surprising Carlin even got involved in children’s programming, voicing a character on Thomas the Tank Engine and playing “Mr. Conductor” for two seasons on the PBS show Shining Time Station. He also had his own sitcom, The George Carlin Show, on FOX from 1993 to 1995.

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Carlin Says Goodbye

In March of 2008, HBO aired Carlin’s stand-up special, It’s Bad for Ya. It would end up being his last. Having suffered from heart problems for a large part of his life (he survived three non-fatal heart attacks), Carlin was admitted to St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica, California, complaining of chest pains on June 22, 2008. Later the same day, he died of heart failure. He was 71 years old.

My thoughts on It’s Bad for Ya

There’s something slightly morbid about watching the great George Carlin’s fourteenth — and final — stand-up special, It’s Bad for Ya. Taped in March of 2008, Carlin spends a lot of the hour talking about death and the afterlife (or lack thereof). Hearing him talk about getting old and dying — and knowing that he would pass away in June of 2008, only a few months later — makes Carlin’s routine seem darkly prescient. It also makes just about everything he says a little more resonant; knowing it would be the last special we get from the comic forces one to sit up and pay close attention.

Jester, Philosopher, Poet

Carlin definitely looks all of his 70 years on It’s Bad for Ya, but he hasn’t lost any of his wit or edge (the fact that he’s still writing and performing stand-up at age 70 ought to be enough to silence any of his critics).

Since the early 1990s, Carlin has been becoming progressively grouchier — and It’s Bad for Ya proves to be the culmination of that progression. From children to church to patriotism to death, Carlin doesn’t have a nice word to say about anything; if the special amounted to nothing more than a list of complaints, it would be insufferable. Luckily, there’s always more to Carlin’s negativity — his grouchiness makes a point. One of comedy’s sharpest social critics, Carlin spends the hour pointing out hypocrisies in American culture and language — the Things We Say and Do Not Mean.

It’s Bad for Ya is essentially divided into three acts: Death, Children and Bullshit. Carlin’s routine on dying — or, more specifically, the way others react when someone dies — is excellent. He ridicules the empty comments people make (“He’s smiling down on us right now” or “Don’t hesitate to ask me to do anything”) and demolishes the ideas of Heaven and Hell. The next section, covering adults and their treatment of children, is the weakest of the three and the only time It’s Bad for Ya sags; he still gets off the occasional clever turn of phrase, but it’s not his best stuff.

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The best stuff he saves for last: the final third of the special, which I’m categorizing under the too-general “Bullshit,” is his most socially critical. As Carlin attacks widely accepted phrases (“Proud to be an American”) and ideas (like swearing on the Bible, or having “rights”) his larger thesis finally comes into focus. It’s what late-era Carlin has always been best at: applying logic to language and ideas that don’t support it. This final third — particularly a routine on American “rights” — is some of the best material he’s ever done, and a fitting way for one of the best comedians of all time to go out.


The DVD release of It’s Bad for Ya contains two bonus features The first — and lesser of the two — is a clip of Carlin performing on The Jackie Gleason Show in 1969. It’s interesting to see Carlin early in his career, working in a totally different style but still showing glimpses of the comedian he would eventually become.

The second featurette is a fantastic 30-minute interview with Carlin, called “Too Hip for the Room” (something he said he’d like on his tombstone). Essentially just a truncated version of the three-hour interview conducted in 2007 with the Archive of American Television, the piece shows Carlin speaking candidly about his history as a comic and his approach to comedy. His insights are articulate and quite invaluable to any fan, and I was particularly interested to hear Carlin say that his 1992 special, Jammin’ in New York, marked the real transition into his ultimate comedic style. I’ve always thought that was Carlin’s best special, and the clearest example I could point to of his combination of observation, anger, humor and social commentary. He spent the remainder of his career doing a variation on that special, but never to such effect.

Additional George Carlin Facts

  • Carlin was present during Lenny Bruce’s legendary arrest for obscenity. When he refused to provide identification to the police, he was arrested and put in the same car as Bruce.
  • He was given a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 15th Annual Comedy Awards in 2001.
  • In 2004, Comedy Central placed Carlin at #2 on its list of the Greatest Stand-ups of All Time.
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