George Carlin

One of the unalloyed joys (really) of being in show business is getting to meet and know people you've admired. I grew up listening to George Carlin, admiring the way he injected intelligence and daring into the world of standup comedy. Along with Richard Pryor and Albert Brooks, Carlin helped revolutionize the genre.

Then a few years ago, much too late, we met in professional circumstances: I was interviewing him on the occasion of a new book of his. We shared the stage for a couple of hours, and continued our chat backstage afterwards. We had a few more phone conversations since then, too few, and I marveled at the quality that I've come to admire more than most others in this business: his persistence. George seemed to love what he did, and so he kept doing it at a very high level. See his remarkable standup poem "Modern Man" for one of the most recent examples.

George grew tougher and sharper over the years, putting more of himself, and his intellect, at the service of his always nimble, always adventurous comedy mind. And, while his comedy was dark, his spirit with his peers was generous.

He was named recently as this year's recipient of the Mark Twain Award. Although the presentation was scheduled for November, the announcement came in time for George to know of the honor.