George Carlin’s album Class Clown, and infamous bit “Seven Dirty Words You Can’t Say On Television” is among the 25 sound recordings that’s been selected by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry. It’s a routine where Carlin, identified why some words in some context were acceptable in public and others were not. Carlin performed the routine (and later variations on it) many times during his career. Like Lenny Bruce before him, Carlin was also on the end of a few indecency arrests for his performance of the bit.
Since 2000, the library chooses recordings to preserve for future generations. Recordings must be at least 10 years old and considered, “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” The selections range from musical pieces, radio show recordings, broadcasts of sports, and comedy bits. Joining Carlin on the 2015 registry inclusions are Billy Joel’s, “Piano Man,” the broadcast of Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game, and Metallica’s Master of Puppets. Currently the total number of selections is at 450. Nominations are submitted via the Library’s website.
Class Clown was an album that was not only culturally relevant, it was a commercial success too. Here’s how the Library of Congress describes it.
In the late 1960s, George Carlin stepped back from a successful career as a mainstream stand-up comedian and reinvented himself with a much funnier, but far riskier, countercultural style. “Class Clown” was the second album of this phase of his career, and contained his “Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television” routine, a discourse not only on those words and their power to offend, but also on the varieties and vagaries of the English language itself. At the time of the album’s release, Carlin had actually been arrested on a charge of obscenity for a live performance of this routine, though the charges were ultimately dropped—yet those words still cannot be spoken on broadcast television.
Carlin joins the likes of comedians Steve Martin (A Wild And Crazy Guy), Carl Reiner & Mel Brooks (200 Years with Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks), Bob Newhart (The Button Down Mind), Bill Cosby (I Started Out As A Child), and Abbot & Costello (Who’s On First?) on the registry. If you’d like to see the complete list of recordings on the registry, you can read the full list.