June 23, 2008 — -- George Carlin gave more to his fellow comedians, actors and writers than a good laugh.
Responding to news of Carlin's death from heart failure at the age of 71, fellow funny men and women spoke about his groundbreaking humor, his brilliant mind, his big heart, and the effect he had on them and their profession.
"If there was ever a comedian who was a voice of their generation it was George Carlin," comedian and "Tonight Show" host Jay Leno told ABCNEWS.com. "Before George, comedians aspired to put on nice suits and perform in Las Vegas. George rebelled against that life. His comedy took on privilege and elitism, even railing against the game of golf. He never lost that fire. May he continue to inspire young people never to accept the status quo."
"George Carlin was a hugely influential force in stand-up comedy, actor Ben Stiller told ABCNEWS.com. "He had an amazing mind, and his humor was brave, and always challenging us to look at ourselves and question our belief systems, while being incredibly entertaining. He was one of the greats and he will be missed."
Comedian Mike Myers, currently starring in "The Love Guru," told ABCNEWS.com: "George Carlin is one of the greatest comedians that ever lived. His irreverence, bravery, and the fact that he was his own man, has served as an inspiration to me and he will be sorely missed."
Comedian Jimmy Kimmel concisely expressed his esteem for Carlin. "Free speech never had a better or funnier friend than George Carlin," he told ABCNEWS.com.
Jack Burns, who performed in a comedy duo with Carlin, called Carlin a genius.
"I will miss him dearly," Burns told the Associated Press. "We were working in Chicago, and we went to see Lenny (Bruce), and we were both blown away. It was an epiphany for George. The comedy we were doing at the time wasn't exactly groundbreaking, and George knew then that he wanted to go in a different direction."
Whoopi Goldberg, co-host of "The View," paid tribute to Carlin on Monday's show.
"George Carlin was one of the first guys to inspire me that you could actually talk about stuff you knew," Goldberg said. "Him and Rich [Pryor], for me, two of the greats are gone, and I wanted to acknowledge that they're gone."
"The View" co-host Joy Behar also said she was affected by Carlin's death. "I just feel terrible when a comedian dies," Behar said. "Especially George Carlin, a wonderful comedian -- a trailblazer and an extremely brave comedian."
"The last of the great comics has left us, only to join the great comedy club in the sky," Rain Pryor, Richard Pryor's daughter, told ABCNEWS.com. "I will miss you, Mr. Carlin, as the world missed my father. Give Dad a hug for me!"
"Carlin was brilliant," Richard Pryor's writer Paul Mooney told ABCNEWS.com. "The world has lost a genius; the world has lost a mensch."
Caroline Hirsch, a comedian on Broadway who produced the show "Caroline's Comedy Hour" and started Caroline's Comedy Club in New York for rising comedians, commented on Carlin's success.
"He was so prolific," she told ABCNEWS.com. "He had so many stand-up specials, was just smart, brilliant and really a social commentator of the time. I remember in the 60s -- I mean, that's how I really got hooked on comedy -- he was a major factor in that. And it felt so good to meet this legend years later."
"George Carlin was The Beatles of stand-up comedy," Bill Hader, an actor ("Superbad") and comedian on "Saturday Night Live," told ABCNEWS.com. "His influence can be felt in every stand-up comedian today. His jokes were the first act I ever learned. I would spend recess performing it for all my friends."
Judd Apatow, a director of comedies, such as "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" and "Knocked Up," recalled his childhood days following Carlin's comedy. "Nobody was funnier than George Carlin," Apatow told ABCNEWS.com. "I spent half my childhood in my room listening to his records, experiencing pure joy. And he was as kind as he was funny."
"He was one of the big ones," celebrity comedian Joan Rivers told ABCNEWS.com. "He was fearless in his comedy."