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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - In a tribute to irreverent comedian George Carlin who died this week, cable television network HBO said on Tuesday that it will air encore specials of more than 30 years of his comedy shows starting this week.
Carlin began giving performances on HBO as far back as 1977, almost since the network's inception, and the network will air the first "George Carlin at USC" as well as the final "It's Bad for Ya."
Sister network HBO2 will show 11 of his specials over two nights.
"Because HBO has had such a long and close relationship with George Carlin, his passing is like losing one of our own," HBO Entertainment Senior Vice President Nancy Geller said in a statement. "No performer was more important to helping our network define itself in its early years."
Carlin was 71 years-old when he died of heart failure on Sunday in a Los Angeles-area hospital. He had enthralled the country for nearly 50 years with his provocative humor.
In 1978, a radio broadcast of Carlin's routine "Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television," fueled a battle with the Federal Communications Commission over indecent language on U.S. airwaves.
The U.S. Supreme Court later ruled that Carlin had used words that were indecent, and that the FCC could ban them from being aired when children were listening.
Still, Carlin continued with his no-holds-barred style of comedy that inspired several generations of young comedians to push the boundaries of what audiences considered funny.
"(No) performer was more committed to the ideal of freedom of speech, a principle he embodied for the 50 years he performed with his trademark wit," Geller said.
Apart from presenting 14 shows on HBO, Carlin wrote three best-selling books, won four Grammy Awards, and recorded 22 comedy albums.
The John F. Kennedy Center recently announced Carlin the winner of the prestigious Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, which he was to receive in November this year.