The first of his 14 stand-up comedy specials for HBO was filmed in 1977. From the late 1980s, Carlin's routines focused on socio-cultural criticism of modern American society. He often commented on contemporary political issues in the United States and satirized the excesses of American culture. In 2004, Carlin was placed second on the Comedy Central list of the 100 greatest stand-up comedians, ahead of Lenny Bruce and behind Richard Pryor. He was a frequent performer and guest host on The Tonight Show during the three-decade Johnny Carson era, and hosted the first episode of Saturday Night Live. His final HBO special, It's Bad for Ya, was filmed less than four months before his death. In 2008, he was posthumously awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.
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