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Standup Comedy Icon Gallagher Passes Away

November 11, 2022 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
Gallagher Image Credit: Comedy Dynamics

Gallagher, the comedian best known for his watermelon-smashing antics, has passed away. Variety reports that the comic, born Leo Anthony Gallagher Jr., passed at his home in Palm Springs of organ failure at the age of 76. He had been in poor health in recent years and had suffered several heart attacks.

Gallagher (full name Leo Anthony Gallagher Jr.) catapulted into fame in the late 1980s and early 1990s with his prop comedy. He was best known for his set-ending sequence where he would use his “Sledge-O-Matic” to smash a variety of items, ending with a watermelon that would douse the front rows of the audience. He appeared on a variety of television specials and did the talk show circuit, touring throughout his life.

Gallagher was born in Fort Bragg, North Carolina and began as a road manager for comedian Jim Stafford. Stafford’s ABC show in 1975 resulted in Gallagher’s first TV show appearance, which would lead into his appearances on The Tonight Show and other late night shows. He was a favorite of Johnny Carson’s and appeared on the show 18 times during his tenure.

While his prominence waned a bit in the 2000s and his televised specials stopped, Gallagher continued to tour regularly until 2019. He is estimated to have done over 3,500 shows over the course of his career.

Gallagher was not without his controversies; his had a legal battle with his younger brother Ron who tried to steal his act in the early 1990s, and he was sued by a woman who claimed she suffered head injuries from a prop. He won both legal cases. He was also accused of racism and homophobia during his shows in the 2010s and had an infamous appearance on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast in 2011 where they sparred over the content of his jokes, with Gallagher walking out of the podcast.

Gallagher’s former manager told Variety, “While Gallagher had his detractors, he was an undeniable talent and an American success story.”

On behalf of 411, our condolences to the family, friends and fans of Gallagher. He will be missed.

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Gallagher, Jeremy Thomas