Leo Anthony Gallagher Jr., best known by his stage name Gallagher, who became notorious for his “sledge-o-matic” comedy routine, wherein he destroyed watermelons with a mallet, has died at 76. The news was confirmed to TMZ by Gallagher’s longtime manager, who specified that he died of massive organ failure on November 11 while in hospice care in Palm Springs. His death follows a long battle with multiple health issues, including numerous heart attacks, one of which he suffered onstage in Minnesota in 2011. Gallagher is survived by his two children, Aimee and Barnaby.
“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,” Gallagher’s representative told TMZ. “While Gallagher had his detractors, he was an undeniable talent and an American success story.”
Gallagher, who was born in North Carolina, was a comedy institution who honed his act at the Comedy Store in L.A. and got his first mainstream break performing on The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson in 1975. He released 17 comedic specials between 1980 and 2014, becoming a fixture on HBO, Showtime, and Comedy Central (where his specials were re-broadcast).
His outsize impact on pop-culture can be felt in the many references and parodies he inspired. Most recently, he was portrayed by Paul F. Tompkins in the pseudo–Weird Al Yankovic biopic Weird: The Al Yankovic Story. He famously walked out of an interview with Marc Maron during a 2011 episode of WTF that helped contribute to the show’s rise to prominence.