Gallagher, the melon-smashing comedian, dies at 76

Gallagher, the uninhibited prop comic best known for pulverizing watermelons — and various other foods — with a sledgehammer he dubbed the Sledge-O-Matic, has died. He was 76.

The comedian, whose first name was Leo, died of organ failure in Palm Springs on Friday, his longtime manager Craig Marquardo said. He was in the hospice.

He had previously suffered numerous heart attacks, which he and David Letterman spoke about at a gig several years ago, Marquardo said in a statement announcing the comedian’s death.

Gallagher suffered a mild heart attack in Arizona on March 25, 2012, 11 days after being hospitalized in Lewisville, Texas for a heart attack. He was reportedly placed in a medically induced coma in Texas for four days and had two coronary stents replaced. He also suffered a heart attack while performing at a Minnesota club in 2011.

The melon-smashing comedian, whose comedy specials became a Showtime staple in the 1980s, was inspired to create his signature Sledge-O-Matic by the manually operated Veg-O-Matic food slicer seen in television commercials (” It slices! It rolls!”).

During his shows, the sledgehammer-wielding Gallagher can sling mayonnaise, mustard, honey, chocolate syrup, grapes, olives, cottage cheese, and eggs at audiences — not to mention “pound cake,” “cheeseburger takeaway,” and “the last one.” dab of toothpaste.”

In fact, the first 10 rows of a Gallagher show were known as Death Row.

Fans often came prepared for the rush, wearing old clothes and plastic rain ponchos; The official Gallagher ponchos were of course also sold in the lobby.

Gallagher was born on July 24, 1946 in Fort Bragg, NC and grew up in Ohio and Florida.

He received a chemical engineering degree from the University of South Florida in 1970 and worked as a road manager for singer-songwriter Jim Stafford before turning to stand-up comedy in the late ’70s.

The mischievous comedian with the wild long bangs and mustache always had new firepower up his colorful sleeve.

“People think it’s about watermelons,” he told the Idaho Statesman before a performance in 2000. “But wait until you see three dozen eggs in a wok with mini marshmallows. The 45 degree angle of a wok ensures the marshmallows and eggs come out as much as possible.

“The eggs are the explosions and the marshmallows are like splinters. Some things explode and some things have aerodynamics.”

Gallagher was also known for inviting viewers onto the stage to get in on his food-smashing act.

At one point in the 1980s, Gallagher’s performance included a giant couch with a built-in trampoline on which he performed some impressive jumps. And when he dug into the couch’s pillow crevice, the comedian found an oversized potato chip and other “lost” items.

Gallagher’s prop boxes also contained unusual items such as a “pistol” (a gun that fired plastic hands) and a “baby on board” (a doll nailed to a wooden board).

But his performance wasn’t all props and a flying food finale.

Discussing cultural trends, politics, relationships, and other topics, he offered food for thought:

“Why is Teflon sticking to the pan?”

“If your knees were bent the other way, what would a chair look like?”

“Did Superman’s mom bother to wrap his presents?”

As he said in a 1993 Times interview, “It’s the child in you that I’m trying to entertain.”

Gallagher also brought a bit of humor to the 2003 California gubernatorial election when he joined a field of 135 candidates including former child star Gary Coleman, Hustler magazine editor Larry Flynt, adult film actress Mary Carey — and eventual winner Arnold Schwarzenegger .

“I was the first guy that wasn’t serious about being governor that went down there and was a celebrity who wanted publicity from the race,” Gallagher said in an interview with Scripps Howard News Service a month after he finished 16th occupied 5,466 votes.

In the early 1990s, while performing in theaters and other major venues, Gallagher allowed his younger brother Ron to perform a recreation of his number at comedy clubs.

Ron Gallagher was billed as Gallagher II: The Living Sequel.

But in 1999, Gallagher filed a lawsuit in federal court, saying Ron was violating “Gallagher’s right of publicity and trademark rights and engaging in false advertising and unfair competition, thereby confusing consumers.”

In 2000, a federal judge issued an injunction against Ron Gallagher, barring him from imitating his famous brother’s act.

In recent years, Gallagher has been criticized for making racist, sexist and homophobic statements on stage against French and Mexicans, feminists and members of the LGBTQ community.

When the allegations were mentioned during a podcast taping with comedian Marc Maron in 2011, the comic responded by walking out.

Summer Lin, a Times contributor, contributed to this report. Gallagher, the melon-smashing comedian, dies at 76

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