Stand-up comedy legend George Carlin has died of heart failure at the age of 71.

His publicist Jeff Abraham said the New Yorker had checked into St. John's Health Centre in Santa Monica on Sunday and died later that evening.

Famed for his 'Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television' routine, it saw Carlin arrested for disturbing the peace in Milwaukee in 1972 while the routine's broadcast on New York radio station WBAI-FM in 1973 led to a US Supreme Court ruling over the government's ability to rule over broadcasting standards.

"So my name is a footnote in American legal history, which I'm perversely kind of proud of," he told the Associated Press news agency. "In the context of that era, it was daring."

"It just sounds like a very self-serving kind of word. I don't want to go around describing myself as a 'groundbreaker' or a 'difference-maker' because I'm not and I wasn't," he added.

"But I contributed to people who were saying things that weren't supposed to be said."

As well as producing 23 comedy album, 14 HBO specials and three books, Carlin is also well-remembered for his appearances as the guardian Rufus in the Bill and Ted films.

He performed as recently as last weekend, with a set at the Orleans Casino and Hotel in Las Vegas while it was announced last Tuesday that Carlin was to receive the 11th annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humour.

"In his lengthy career as a comedian, writer, and actor, George Carlin has not only made us laugh, but he makes us think," Stephen Schwarzman, Kennedy Centre chairman, said in a statement announcing the prize.

"His influence on the next generation of comics has been far-reaching."

Carlin's first wife, Brenda, died in 1997 while he is survived by wife Sally Wade; daughter Kelly Carlin McCall; son-in-law Bob McCall; brother Patrick Carlin; and sister-in-law Marlene Carlin.

23/06/2008 09:21:17