American comedian Leo Gallagher reportedly died on November 11, 2022, at the age of 76. In the 1970s and 1980s, the strip gained national fame by appearing on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and in several Showtime specials. Gallagher rose to fame with his signature routine, “Sledge-O-Matic,” in which he smashed food onstage with a large mallet before finishing with the headliner – a watermelon. It quickly became the comedian’s most famous comedy and a popular subject for impersonation.
Craig Marquardo, his former manager, broke the news of his death, saying the strip “succumbed to its flaws” at his California home. The statement continued:
“He was the number one comic in America for 15 years, thanks in part to the success of his stand-up specials that appeared on MTV at the beginning, introducing him to a whole new audience.”
Following the news of Gallagher’s passing, many admirers flocked to Twitter to pay their respects.
Gallagher’s youth and rapid rise to fame
Born in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Gallagher graduated from the University of South Florida with a degree in chemical engineering before coming to Los Angeles to hone his comedy act at famed club The Comedy Store. He made his television debut in 1975 on ABC’s The Jim Stafford Show. He appeared on The Mike Douglas Show in 1978. The following year, he appeared on The Merv Griffin Show. Additionally, the comic has been on several talk shows during its career, including The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, Match Game, David Letterman’s NBC and CBS shows, and Howard Stern’s TV and radio shows. He has appeared on MTV and Comedy Central.
During his nearly 50-year career, the prolific entertainer has had a whopping 17 great comedy specials to his credit. Comedian Paul F. Tompkins will play him in the upcoming film Weird: The Al Yankovic Story. Gallagher also starred in a Geico commercial in the movie The Book Of Daniel in his senior year. Gallagher was one of more than 100 candidates in the 2003 recall election for California governor, which Arnold Schwarzenegger won. Gallagher finished 16th out of 135 candidates, with 5,466 votes.
Netizens expressed their shock at the comedian’s death on Twitter.
Gallagher died of organ failure while he was accompanied by his family in Palm Springs, California, according to a statement from Marquardo to The Rolling Stones. He was presumably ill and had many heart attacks. As the word of his death spread on the internet, countless Twitter users began to pay tribute to the iconic comic.
— Crazy stupid things (@CrazyS2pid) Nov 12, 2022
Comedian Leo Gallagher has died aged 76. He was best known for his explosive antics on stage, smashing food (most famously watermelons) with giant hammers.https://t.co/Ne3Scj8OR1
— The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) Nov 11, 2022
Gallagher’s controversial background is told in the wake of the comedian’s death.
The late night comedian was no stranger to controversy. His younger brother Ron, who became a comedian after getting Leo’s initial endorsement, began his career as Leo’s impersonator. In 2000, the latter successfully sued Ron for trademark infringement and fraudulent advertising. As a result, Ron was banned from using his brother’s procedures. In recent years, Leo Gallagher has been more controversial for misrepresenting Mexicans and making racist and homophobic comments. He even stormed out of an interview with Marc Maron in 2011 after being asked for his opinion.
Gallagher was last included in Comedy Central’s list of the 100 Greatest Stand-ups of All Time in 2004. He informed Oregonian’s Ed Condran of his dissatisfaction with his low rank:
“I’ve produced 13 one-hour Showtime specials, which are accessible on VHS.” “I developed the one-man show via cable.”
Gallagher spent most of his career touring the United States until the Covid-19 outbreak hit. He then took advantage of the break to spend time with his son, Barnaby, and daughter Aimee, the latter of whom had been on his specials with him as a youngster.