George Carlin was an American stand-up comedian, actor, social critic and author. He is widely regarded as one of the most important and influential stand-up comedians: One newspaper called Carlin "the dean of counterculture comedians." In 2004, Carlin was placed second on the Comedy Central list of "Top 10 Comedians of US Audiences" compiled for an April 2004 special. The first of his 14 stand-up comedy specials for HBO was filmed in 1977. From the late 1980s, Carlin's routines focused on sociocultural criticism of American society. He often commented on contemporary political issues in the United States and satirized the excesses of American culture. He was a frequent performer and guest host on The Tonight Show during the three-decade Johnny Carson era, and hosted the first episode of Saturday Night Live. His final HBO special, It's Bad for Ya, was filmed fewer than four months before his death. In 2008, he was posthumously awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.