Comedian Gallagher Dies at 76
Gallagher, the comedian known for smashing watermelons and other produce with a giant wooden mallet he called the “Sledge-O-Matic,” died on November 11, 2022. He was 76.
The man known by the mononym Gallagher was born Leo Anthony Gallagher Jr. in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He earned a degree in chemical engineering from the University of South Florida, but he soon deviated from that career path.
Gallagher moved to Los Angeles and perfected his comedy act at The Comedy Store on the Sunset Strip. He also worked as a road manager for singer and comedian Jim Stafford. In fact, Gallagher’s first television appearance came in 1975 on “The Jim Stafford Show.”
Also in 1975, Gallagher appeared on Johnny Carson’s “The Tonight Show,” which had a reputation for boosting the careers of up-and-coming comedians.
In 1980, Gallagher performed in his first of 17 comedy specials on cable television. Viewers at home enjoyed his antics without fear of being drenched in chunks of watermelon, waves of water, or whatever else Gallagher sent flying into the audience.
Of course, Gallagher’s fans came to his performances well-prepared for his antics. They ducked under sheets of plastic whenever he raised the Sledge-O-Matic or otherwise threatened to launch food or liquid into the crowd. Most people loved these antics, but sometimes things went wrong. Gallagher said, “I’ve always had to deal with insurance problems. My insurance was canceled at one point because someone sued me saying that they had been hurt seriously by a candy bar in the balcony. Somehow a candy bar I hit with a tennis racket so the people on the balcony could have candy?”
Gallagher faced another career problem as well, much larger than the occasional insurance claim: His brother Ron began touring as “Gallagher II,” duplicating his act. Eventually, Ron took the stage as if he were Gallagher himself. The real Gallagher eventually sued the fraudulent performer.
Gallagher collapsed onstage in Minnesota in 2011, and in the years that followed he suffered a series of heart attacks.
Gallagher died under hospice care at his home in Palm Springs, California. He is survived by his daughter, Aimee, and his son, Barnaby.
Learn more about Gallagher in his own words.
Alsharif, Mirna and Dasrath, Diana. “Comedian Gallagher, famous for his watermelon-smashing routine, dies at 76.” NBC News, November 11, 2022, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/comedian-gallagher-famous-smashing-watermelons-dies-76-rcna56770
France, Lisa Respers. “Gallagher, watermelon-smashing comedian, dead at 76.” CNN, November 11, 2022, https://www.cnn.com/2022/11/11/entertainment/gallagher-comic-dead/index.html
Pandya, Hershal. “Watermelon-Smashing Comedian Gallagher Dead at 76.” Vulture, November 11, 2022, https://www.vulture.com/2022/11/gallagher-comedian-dead.html
Stern, Howard. “Gallagher On Hack Comics.” Howard Stern, March 12, 2008, https://www.howardstern.com/show/2008/03/12/a-victim-of-hypocrisy-rundowngallerymodel-8159/
TMZ. “Comedian Gallagher Dead At 76.” TMZ, November 11, 2022, https://www.tmz.com/2022/11/11/comedian-gallagher-dead-dies-watermelon/
Wolinsky, David. “Gallagher.” AV Club, December 29, 2009, https://www.avclub.com/gallagher-1798218616
Enjoy daily quotes and inspiration wherever you are! Download our Brilliant Quotes app for Apple or Android. Browse by author or category, read our quote of the day, vote for your favorite quotes, and share inspirational quotes on social media.