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Seinfeld: Carlin was 'the total package'

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  • Jerry Seinfeld: George Carlin "one of the Mount Rushmore guys" in comedy
  • Lewis Black recalls Carlin phoning him out of the blue to pick him up
  • Famed comedian dies of heart failure at age 71
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(CNN) -- George Carlin was "the total package of what a comedian's skills could be," Jerry Seinfeld said Monday in a "Larry King Live" tribute to the comedian.

"He was a brilliant writer, a brilliant performer," Seinfeld told CNN's Larry King. "He literally could train his eye on something very kind of mundane and regular -- he could talk about a couch pillow or he could take on, you know, abortion or politics or religion.

"So there was no subject that his mind was not able to dissect and make fun. ... He had an amazing breadth of subject matter," Seinfeld added, calling Carlin "one of the Mount Rushmore guys in our profession."

Carlin, who died of heart failure Sunday at age 71, was known for his observational skills and talent for language. His famous routines compared baseball and football, fast-moving "maniac" drivers with slow-moving "idiots," and included a list of "people I can do without." Slideshow: The life of George Carlin »

He also fearlessly used profanity, scatology and irreverence in making his points about the absurdities of human life. His "Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television" routine prompted a landmark indecency case that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In November, Carlin was slated to receive the 2008 Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, given by the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Video Watch Carlin discuss "Napalm and Silly Putty" »

"I think the things he said and the guts he had to say them, it was just breathtaking," comedian Roseanne Barr told King.

"He really didn't care, you know, if it was going to rub anybody the wrong way," observed Seinfeld, who credited Carlin as a huge influence. "I used to love this routine he would do about how whenever the UFO people come on television, everyone in this studio audience laughs at them. But when they talk about religion and the man in the sky with the white beard and the robe, everyone is very reverent and which one is really more absurd? And, you know, obviously, that's going to get religious people upset."

Bill Maher, who as the host of "Politically Incorrect" and HBO's "Real Time With Bill Maher" has raised hackles himself from time to time, noted that Carlin probably would have dismissed much of the praise he was receiving in death.

"I bet you if he was here now, what he would be saying is, 'Why do people say nice things when you die? That's the stupidest thing to do. They can't hear you, you know?' " Maher said.

But Maher added that, for him, "there's nobody higher" in the comedy pantheon.

"Look, there's many ways to get a laugh. To me, this is the highest way. It's also saying something," Maher said. "If you took the jokes out of his act, it would still be a very interesting speech that made you think."

Carlin may have seemed angry and indignant onstage -- and there was that side of him, the comedians agreed -- but he was personally a kind, gracious man, said "The Daily Show" contributor Lewis Black.

When Black was a struggling performer, he recalled getting a call from Carlin, a man he'd never met, out of the blue.

"He said, 'Listen, Lewis, this is George Carlin. First, let me tell you, there's nothing I can do for your career.' And then he went on to say he'd heard my stuff, and he really liked it and I made him laugh," Black said. "If I had any things to send it to him, because he had friends who liked to laugh. That was what he could do. That alone really was for me, it was huge, absolutely huge.

"It shut my mother up," he added.

Carlin's daughter Kelly Carlin McCall called her father "a great dad."

"People see him onstage in his stage persona and his grumpiness and crotchetiness," she said. "Yet he was the kindest, most generous, incredible man when it came to meeting people one-on-one and knowing people."

The family is planning a private memorial for this weekend, McCall and Carlin's brother Patrick told King. That service will be followed by a public event in a few weeks. Video Watch an appreciation of Carlin »

The comedians and family members were caught off guard by Carlin's death. Though Carlin was in the preliminary stages of congestive heart failure, his health had seemed in "a good place," McCall said. The peripatetic Carlin, who constantly toured despite a history of heart problems, had played a show the weekend before in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Seinfeld said he had talked with Carlin a few days ago, not long after the death of "Meet the Press" host Tim Russert.

"We were actually joking about death," he said. "We were kidding about how, you know, they kind of come in groups. It was like Bo Diddley and Tim Russert. And he was saying how I feel safe now for a little while because, you know, there should be a lull before they come after the next person."

Seinfeld marveled at Carlin's output.

"This guy did 14 HBO specials -- 14. I've done two. And, you know, very few comedians do more than three or four -- I mean, plus the books," he said. "I don't think we'll ever see someone who, in their lifetime, creates as much comedy as this man did."


Patrick Carlin, who described his relationship with his younger brother as "two peas in a pod," said "he was born hip and never stopped growing," never forgetting those he loved.

"He sure left a beautiful trail across the universe," he said. "And I'm going to miss him forever, forever, man."

All About George Carlin

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