In many ways, the comedian has the ability to be the philosopher of our era, a social critic and theorist whose words have the ability to shape public thought. As we saw from my piece on Louis C.K. a few weeks ago, comedy — at its best — pushes our buttons and challenges our ways of thinking. To me, no person is a better example of that than George Carlin, a savage satirist and brilliant thinker who was just as much of a writer and a philosopher as he was a comedian. His medium was stand-up, but he touched on issues of race, class, politics and American life — saying the kinds of things no one else dared.
Carlin got famous for his bit about the “words you can’t say on television,” but his legacy speaks of so much more, wisdom and wit that deserve to live on through the ages. Here are 51 quotes from the late comedian that show him at his best — hilarious, irascible and never satisfied with the state of society.