George Denis Patrick Carlin was born May 12, 1937, in the Bronx, New York.
Carlin and his younger brother, Pat, were primarily raised by their mother in Manhattan's Morningside Heights section. Mary Carlin, a devout Irish Catholic, worked as a secretary to support her children. She had left Carlin's father Patrick, a national advertising manager for the New York Sun, when he was an infant.
Carlin attended parochial school and much of his negative religious sentiment stems from his experience as a Roman Catholic altar boy. Carlin completed two years of high school before dropping out in the ninth grade.
In 1954, at age 17, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force as a radar technician and was stationed at Shreveport, Louisiana. Over the next three years, Carlin earned his high school equivalency and moonlighted as a disc jockey at a local radio station. He also received three court-martials and numerous disciplinary punishments, according to his official Web site. After a general discharge in 1957, he took radio jobs in Boston and Fort Worth, Texas.
In 1959, Carlin teamed up with Texas newscaster, Jack Burns. The pair collaborated on a morning radio show in Fort Worth before relocating to Hollywood, where they attracted the attention of the legendary Lenny Bruce. Bruce helped Burns and Carlin secure appearances on The Tonight Show with Jack Paar (Carlin would make a total of 130 appearances on The Tonight Show).
Burns and Carlin eventually split up, and over the next few years Carlin continued to make numerous appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, as well as 29 appearances on The Merv Griffin Show.
In the early 1960s, Carlin got his start as a stand-up comic by performing on the Las Vegas circuit and entertaining TV audiences. Carlin enjoyed moderate success until the mid-70s when he re-invented his image and adopted a less conventional, somewhat vulgar comedy routine. Carlin's scripted monologues began to represent his disillusioned attitude toward the world in which explored the highly sensitive issues of Vietnam, politics, religion, American culture, drugs, the demise of humanity and the right to free speech.
In July of 1972, Carlin was arrested for violating obscenity laws in Milwaukee after his infamous routine "Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television."
When a radio station played a recording of Carlin's "Seven Words" routine, it sparked a legal case over obscenity regulations. In 1978, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the government's right to penalize stations that broadcast such material on public airwaves during hours (6 a.m. and 10 p.m.) when young people may typically tune in.
As a self-professed atheist and avid cocaine user, his adversaries deemed him anti-religious and disrespectful of society. However, the comedian's new material brought him success from the younger counterculture. Carlin illustrated his anti-establishment views by being the first host of the risque TV show Saturday Night Live on October 11, 1975.