I've always enjoyed George Carlin. As I get older, I've learned to enjoy him for different reasons.
At first, it was because he was shocking. He obviously grew up in a very different environment than I - the language, expressions, mannerisms, and presence seem to seesaw back and forth from a calm, reflective social commentator to a foul-mouthed, substance-abusing, wrong-side-of-the-tracks beligerent. But as I listened to more of his monologues, I began to hear something deeper.
He wasn't the first comedian I'd ever heard swear on stage, but he was the first one to intellectually explore how people use and interpet these words. He takes no snobbish approach to the language and behaviors that are used in everyday life, by everyday people. Instead, he looks at our actions and expressions, puts them into a totally different context, and shows how funny people are being every day without even meaning to be. He seems to be comfortable laying in the mud, talking the talk, and still looking at what we all do naturally with the objectivity of a pure academic.
He gets laughs through the absurdity of showing us to ourselves. Some of his best standup routines are ones that take the scientific approach to vulgarity. The seven words you can never say on television, for example. A brilliant and shocking bit on how these words have been banished from the airwaves, all due to the thoughts behind the people that use the words. he talks about the phonics of the words, their origins and the concepts behind them, too.
A thinking person's comedian. Just don't let your mom hear you listening to him.