George Carlin, the famously acerbic stand-up comedian, has died. The pioneering entertainer succumbed to heart failure in Santa Monica, Calif., on Sunday, at age 71. Carlin, who began making TV appearances in the 1960s with a conventional comedy act, emerged in the 1970s with a style much more reflective of the times, pushing into more sensitive areas of social observation and language, a favorite topic of his over the years. Most notably, his recorded routine ''Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television'' became the center of a landmark Supreme Court case.
As the years passed, Carlin solidified his status as a curmudgeonly elder statesman of alternative comedy. Having hosted the first episode of Saturday Night Live in 1975, he starred in a number of HBO comedy specials over four decades. He also appeared in occasional movie roles, including Kevin Smith's Dogma (1999), and he lent his voice to Pixar's 2006 release, Cars. In the past 10 years, he achieved success as an author, publishing three best-sellers; the audiobook of his most recent, When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops?, was nominated for a 2006 Grammy in the Spoken Word category. Just last week, Carlin was named the recipient of the 11th annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. (CNN)