George Carlin is one of the most beloved comedians of all time. After beginning his career in the 1960s, George rose to fame for his often controversial subject matter and use of explicit language, best exemplified in his routine “The Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television” in 1972. He continued being a popular performer, going through many distinct shifts in style throughout the 80s and 90s, releasing a number of standup specials. His final special It’s Bad For Ya was released months before his death at 71 in June 2008. Other than his standup, George dabbled in comedic acting, appearing in films such as Bill And Ted’s Excellent Adventure and playing Mr. Conductor on the children’s program Shining Time Station. Throughout his career, George had two long-lasting marriages. Find out more about both of his wives here!
George met his first wife very early in his comedy career. While he was touring with his partner Jack Burns, he met Brenda Hosbrook, and the pair tied the knot in Daytona, Ohio in 1961. Brenda stood by her husband throughout the many ups-and-downs that his career would bring throughout the 1970s and 80s. Brenda was incredibly active in her husband’s career, collaborating with him on many of his comedy specials. She first served as an associate producer for George Carlin At Phoenix, and she was credited as a producer for many of George’s classics like Jammin’ in New York, per IMDb. Her final executive producer credit was for the special George Carlin: 40 Years of Comedy in 1997. She was also a founder of the non-profit theater The Parkview Stage Co. in Los Angeles, according to Variety. Throughout their 36-year marriage, George celebrated Brenda for her hard work. He said that she was responsible for “inspiring countless others to be their best and to realize their dreams.” Brenda died in May 1997 at age 57, after a battle with liver cancer.
George had his only daughter Kelly, 58, with Brenda in 1963. In the years since George’s death, Kelly has honored her dad’s legacy in a number of different ways, and she’s been an active part of the comedy community, releasing an interview series called On Comedy. Despite being an outspoken comedy supporter, Kelly has been open about her parents’ struggles with drug and alcohol abuse in the years since their deaths. She detailed writing out a “UN-style peace treaty” for them not to use cocaine or drink in her memoir A Carlin Home Companion, via NPR. “I could tell. Was Mom drunk? Was she just waking up and had a hangover? Had Dad been up for a few days with cocaine, or was he just smoking some weed and he’s just, you know, kind of mellow? Have they been arguing, are they getting along? Walking on eggshells doesn’t even begin to explain it,” she told NPR.
After Brenda’s heartbreaking death, George met Sally Wade six months later. While he was still grieving the death of his first wife, he said that he and Sally had “love at first sight” in his posthumously published autobiography Last Words. Sally is a writer, who penned episodes of TV shows like E/R and What’s Happening in the 70s and 80s, per IMDb. She’s also written for the likes of George Clooney, The Beach Boys, and many more, according to her author bio. After George’s death, she published a memoir called The George Carlin Letters chronicling their love story.
After George’s death in 2008, Sally released an emotional statement mourning his loss, which came just days before their 10th anniversary. “George Carlin was and always will be the greatest love of my life. We had meeting of the minds, heart and spirit. It was a big love. He was my soul mate and always will be. Tomorrow is our tenth anniversary, and it was the best ten years of my life. It’s quite a shock right now, but I wish to express my sincere thanks and prayers to all who have reached out during this very difficult time. It is deeply appreciated,” she said at the time, via Entertainment Tonight.