George Carlin has probably been referred to more often than any other comedian in these posts. Afterall, his 'The Seven Words You Can't Say on Television' actually created law in the United States. THAT is leaving your mark on society.
As seminal as The Seven Words routine was, it wasn't the funniest bit Carlin ever did, at least to my eyes and ears. I wish I could remember the specific show. I think it was Howard Cosell's vain and less-than-valiant try to create a Saturday night variety hour. But whatever the source, I remember watching the show and busting a stitch. And Carlin never said a word during the whole bit.
He entered stage right and came to the mike stand and did all the motions for starting his routine. But at the moment you felt a bon mot ready to emerge, he took a big sigh and remained quiet. It was as if he was trying to think of what he was about to say. If cue cards were being used, you could imagine the poor cue card person had just dropped them, just before Carlin was supposed to begin.
But a sadness came over his face and you realized it was NOT some off-camera difficulties. He pondered a moment, screwed up his courage and approached the mike again. Once again, nothing. He'd approached the cliff and had decided not to dive off.
Variations on this theme went on for two or three minutes. I didn't get it until about the third or fourth time. THIS was going to be his routine for the night. Working up his nerve to talk and failing... time after time. Eventually, he just slunk off the stage, stage fright having apparently gotten the best of him. I kept laughing for a good solid ten minutes after the commercials started. It was THAT funny. Wish I could tell the story in words as well as the pictures did. YOU'D still be laughing too.
George Carlin has been silenced for real. Nothing funny about that.