Page last updated at 14:47 GMT, Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Comedy honour for George Carlin

Joan Rivers, Margaret Cho, Lewis Black and Garry Shandling at the ceremony
Stars including Joan Rivers and Garry Shandling spoke at the ceremony

US comedian George Carlin has been posthumously honoured with a top comedy award at a ceremony in Washington.

Comedians including Dennis Leary, Joan Rivers and Jon Stewart paid tribute to the star who has been honoured with the Mark Twain prize for American humour.

Previous winners of the award include Whoopi Goldberg and Steve Martin.

Carlin, who died of heart failure in June at the age of 71, is best known for his Seven Words You Can Never Say on TV routine.

Leary told the audience at the John F Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts that, as a boy, his church had a list of banned books and records which included Carlin's comedy records Class Clown and Seven Words.

Jon Stewart on the red carpet before the ceremony
For all his anti-establishment cred, he was a working man. He punched in. He sat down and wrote
Jon Stewart

He said that, after getting hold of the record, he "realised you could make money for saying things my dad used to say when he was fixing the car".

Stewart, meanwhile, told reporters before the event: "For all his anti-establishment cred, he was a working man.

"He punched in. He sat down and wrote. He respected what he did."

Carlin was known throughout his 50-year career for his provocative and controversial performances.

In 1972, he was arrested for disturbing the peace after performing his Seven Words routine at a Milwaukee show.

'Humbly grateful'

His manager and best friend Jerry Hamza said Carlin would have been delighted to pick up the Mark Twain award, which has previously been given to comedians including Richard Pryor and Lily Tomlin.

"He would have been humbly grateful," Hamza said.

George Carlin
Carlin won four Grammy awards and was nominated for five Emmy awards

"Also George, who throughout his career was perceived as an outsider or maverick, had a real desire to connect with other comedians - he loved being in that club."

Carlin produced 23 comedy albums, 14 HBO specials and three books as well as appearing in a number of films.

He also won four Grammy awards for best spoken comedy album and hosted the first broadcast of Saturday Night Live.

The star was plagued by drug addiction which began with teenage marijuana experimentation.

He began using cocaine and prescription painkillers in the 1970s and, in 2004, he entered a Los Angeles rehab clinic for Vicodin and alcohol abuse.

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