I was first exposed to his brand of humor by his album "Class Clown." The fearlessly savage yet totally personal brilliance of that album was eye- and ear-opening, to say the least. Prior to that release, he had mostly been a mainstream (for that era) "Vegas-style" comedian, aka - safe enough to take your grandmother to one of his shows.
That album marked a professional change in Carlin. Gone were the slyly rebellious but ultimately bland personas (Al Sleet, Hippy Dippy Weatherman) It their place was a counterculture icon, showcasing his irreverent takes on his own childhood and Catholic school years (the title track, "Special Dispensation," among others) and life in general. The comedic riffs were both riotous and poignant in their truth - most people in that certain place and time could identify with Carlin's stories.
However, the routine for which he is still most well-known for, "Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television" stole the album.
That routine was so controversial that it led to a Supreme Court in 1978 that upheld the government's authority to censor what is broadcast over the airwaves. That case didn't slow Carlin down one bit, though - during his career, he released more than 20 albums, wrote three best-selling books, appeared in movies and TV shows, and made a number of cable specials for HBO.
He made a career out of needling self-inflated authority figures, dissecting cultural taboos, and just plain shredding "conventional wisdom."
Even today, 35 years later, he still offends the tender sensibilities of the country's self-appointed guardians of propriety, as illustrated in this post at Seeing Red AZ.
While that Supreme Court decision still stands, and all over-the-air broadcasts are subject to federal censorship (hence the infamous "Nipplegate" incident at the SuperBowl a few years ago, the rest of society has moved on where the government, via its proxies at the FCC, has not.
These days, each of the infamous seven words can be heard on basic cable, with special thanks in this regard going out to Turner Classic Movies, aka TCM. They aired an unedited version of "Apocalypse Now" during their Academy Award commemorative programming.
That very quickly took care of any of the seven that hadn't already been uttered on "The Shield" or late-night programming on Comedy Central.
To anyone who was offended by some of the language in this post: You're too old, too young, or just too full of shit.
Note: above photo of the Class Clown album cover courtesy Amazon.com.