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Leo Gallagher, the watermelon-smashing prop comic known as Gallagher, has died. He was 76.
His former manager, Craig Marquardo, told The Hollywood Reporter that Gallagher died Friday in Palm Springs after a short health battle. He was surrounded by family.
The comic had suffered a host of heart attacks, something he and David Letterman talked about during an appearance on Late Show With David Letterman in 2012.
Gallagher became a household name in 1980 with his comedy special, An Uncensored Evening, which was directed by Mike Nesmith of The Monkees.
That was seen as among the first stand-up comedy specials to air on cable television. Gallagher did, in all, 12 comedy specials for Showtime over 27 years, with only George Carlin starring in more. In 2004, Comedy Central named Gallagher among the Top 100 comics of all time.
But Gallagher’s biggest comic touch was employing a sledgehammer. He became famous for using a hand-made tool he dubbed the “Sledge-O-Matic,” where he would smash food onstage and spray it into the audience.
Gallagher’s parody of TV commercial product pitches became a hit with audiences and came to overshadow a 50-year career in comedy. In a 2013 interview with The Produce News trade magazine, the comic was asked how many watermelons he had bought during his career, only to smash them up.
“We just worked this out recently. I have done 200 shows a year for 35 years, use about nine watermelons a show. So that’s 63,000 watermelons. I have spent over $250,000 of my own money on watermelons,” he said.
While other stand-ups shifted to sitcoms or starring in movies, Gallagher remained for the most part on the road, touring American comedy clubs and arenas for decades. He worked steadily until the COVID-19 pandemic.
He is survived by his son, Barnaby, and his daughter, Aimee, who appeared with him on his TV specials when she was a child.
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