His manager, Craig Marquardt, told CNN that the North Carolina native, whose full name was Leo Anthony Gallagher Jr., passed away on Friday, November 11, “after a short health fight.” According to the spokesperson, the performer “died away in Palm Springs, California, surrounded by his family.”
According to the comedian’s son-in-law, Gallagher had “several heart attacks” in the past. The Book of Daniel actor experienced a small heart attack in March 2011 and passed out on stage during a performance.
After experiencing what his management described as a “moderate to serious” heart attack, Gallagher was put into a medically induced coma the following year. Following his rehabilitation, he resumed his tour and made cameo cameos on Celebrity Big Brother 2 in 2019 and The Eric Andre Show in 2013.
The Last Smash was his farewell tour, which he started that same year. As part of his “Sledge-O-Matic” act, which he dubbed his signature move, Gallagher would smash various foods and items with a heavy mallet.
The routine would generally culminate with him crushing a watermelon and sprinkling the crowd with the fruit’s pieces. The University of South Florida alumnus made his television debut on The Tonight Show in the 1970s under presenter Johnny Carson.
As the demand for his performance increased, he hosted several solo comedy specials for Showtime, ultimately creating 14. Commercials for the Veg-O-Matic, a food processing device that became available in the 1960s, served as the basis for the Sledge-O-Matic routine.
GALLAGHER DEAD AT 76: The legendary, watermelon-smashing comic died after a "short health battle," his manager says. https://t.co/qwiO8kCiJE
— WPLG Local 10 News (@WPLGLocal10) November 11, 2022
“If you want it in little pieces, why don’t you hit it with a hammer?” asked Gallagher. However, in later years, the comedian faced criticism for making homophobic and racial jokes in his act. When Marc Maron, 59, the host of the “WTF” podcast, questioned him about claims that his comedy was offensive, he famously left the room.
Gallagher asserted at the time that “hate is not involved here.” Our jokes are being told. I’m not upset. Maron’s response was, “You’re a guy who smashes things.” While Gallagher had his critics, he was an undeniable talent and an American success story, according to Marquardo in a statement to Variety.
In the movie Weird: The Al Yankovic Story from earlier this year, which starred Daniel Radcliffe as the titular musician, comedian Paul F. Tompkins played Gallagher. Son Barnaby and daughter Aimee, who made several appearances in her father’s comedy specials, are Gallagher’s surviving children.
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