Comedian Gallagher Dead at 76

Gallagher, the observational and prop comedian best known for his "Sledge-O-Matic" sketch in which he'd smash watermelons, has died. Born Leo Anthony Gallagher Jr., the comedian passed away of organ failure while in hospice care in his Palm Springs, California home, his son-in-law confirmed to NBC News. His manager told TMZ that Gallagher had been ill for some time and suffered several heart attacks in recent years. He was 76.

"Gallagher stayed on the road touring America for decades. He was pretty sure he held a record for the most stand-up dates, by attrition alone," the star's manager told the outlet. "While Gallagher had his detractors, he was an undeniable talent and an American success story."

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(Photo: Paul Natkin/Getty Images)

Gallagher's career as a comedian began after college, with the star getting his big break after appearing on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show in 1975. Over the coming years, Gallagher's fame skyrocketed, and he soon rose to become one of the most popular and recognizable comedians in America, cementing himself as a household name in 1980 when An Uncensored Evening became the first standup comedy special to ever air on Showtime, according to Variety

He went on to create 12 more hourlong specials for the network, as well as several popular programs for HBO. Gallaher was also loved as a touring comedian, having remained on the road in America for nearly four decades, adding up to over 3,500 live shows throughout his career. He toured up until the COVID-19 pandemic, and in the later years of his career, led a long-running Geico commercial and appeared in his first movie, The Book of Daniel. Throughout his career, he also appeared in episodes of Hollywood Squares, WTF with Marc Maron, Tosh.0, and Celebrity Big Brother. He embarked on a farewell tour titled Last Smash in 2019.

Gallagher was best known for his signature sketch, "Sledge-O-Matic," during which he would use a handmade sledgehammer and smash a variety of foods before ending in the main act, a watermelon. The sketch began as a parody of the Veg-O-Matic commercials, but soon became what he was best known for. In the early '90s, his brother, Ron Gallagher, got permission to do shows using the "Sledge-O-Matic" routine, and he later marketed the act as Gallagher Too or Gallagher Two.

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In recent years, Gallagher faced numerous health struggles, and in 2011, he collapsed onstage during a performance in Minnesota. The following year, he suffered a heart attack just moments before he was set to perform in Texas. Gallagher is survived by his daughter, Aimee, and his son, Barnaby.