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George Carlin and The Second City come to Springs

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It's a great week for comedy in Colorado Springs. The Second City and George Carlin -- two of the oldest institutions in the industry of yuks -- will be passing through town for some funny ha-ha.

Even as a young man, George Carlin was the reigning curmudgeon of comedy. Never far from an always appropriately delivered "F" word, Carlin followed closely in the steps of Lenny Bruce by blending biting toilet humor with politics, always at the outer limits of our freedoms of speech.

First fired from the Frontier Hotel for his use of the word "ass" during a show in 1969, Carlin saw that the First Amendment was not necessarily a guarantee of free speech, but that testing it was an excellent way to build a career.

Just four years later, in 1973, Carlin was hurled into the spotlight when Occupation: Foole was released and the "Filthy Words" sketch was cut from the album. When WBAI Radio in New York played the sketch, the FCC issued a Declamatory Order against the station that would land Carlin at the forefront of the free speech debate for years to come.

After the order was initially overturned, the FCC appealed the case to the Supreme Court, which, on July 3, 1978, ruled 5-4 that "indecent" language couldn't be broadcast during hours when children might hear them.

Carlin would forever after be famous for using every raunchy expletive imaginable in his long and illustrious career as a grumpy, potty-mouthed man.

Among his many career milestones, Carlin was the first host of Saturday Night Live; made 12 HBO specials; released dozens of albums, four of which won Grammys; wrote two books; appeared in plenty of second-rate movies (including Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure); and was awarded the Free Speech Award from the First Amendment Center on March 2, 2002.

Carlin is currently developing a solo Broadway show titled Watch My Language, and his appearance at the Pikes Peak Center on Sunday will probably have lots of preview material.

While Chicago's The Second City is just as venerable a comedy institution as George Carlin, its fame has come as proving grounds where up-and-coming comedians cut their teeth.

Founded in 1959 by a group of University of Chicago theater students that included Ed Asner and Sheldon Patinkin, The Second City became the vortex of satire and improvisation comedy that soon included the likes of Alan Arkin and Jerry Stiller.

When The Second City was sold in 1973, it has also had a company in Toronto, Canada that has also spawned some of the biggest names in sketch comedy: Dan Aykroyd, Gilda Radner, John Candy and others.

In 1976, The Second City moved into television with the show SCTV (right on the heels of Saturday Night Live), and again launched the careers of even more household names like Rick Moranis, Harold Ramis and Martin Short.

The touring company of Second City will bring its blustery Chicago wit right into the hallowed halls of the Fine Arts Center next Thursday, Feb. 20.

Both of these shows will probably sell out quickly, so don't miss your chance to see comedy's illustrious past and present all in one week in the most deadpan town this side of the Pecos.

--Noel Black

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