Comedian Gallagher known for watermelon-smashing act 'Sledge-O-Matic' dies at 76
PALM SPRINGS, CALIFORNIA: Comedian and actor Gallagher, 76, popularly known for smashing watermelons as part of his iconic act, has died, as confirmed by his longtime former manager, Craig Marquardo. His death was caused by a massive organ failure, as he was sick after suffering numerous heart attacks over the course of his life. He died at a hospice care in Palm Springs on Friday morning, November 11.
Gallagher became one of the most recognized comedians in the 1980s for an outrageous act called the 'Sledge-O-Matic', which he would always conclude by smashing a watermelon with a sledgehammer. The 'Wizard of Odd' kept his original name Leo a secret for most of the years and would say that his job was to "yell at people."
In one of the interviews in 1984 with the Miami Herald, Leo Anthony Gallagher spoke of people’s worries about money, family, and responsibilities. “If you make fun of it, the people laugh. They release the tension and are somehow healed — a bit,” the New York Times reported.
The comedian had 17 specials spanning decades of his work. His first special was 'An Uncensored Evening' in 1980. He had appeared in shows like, 'Hollywood Squares', 'WTF with Marc Maron', 'Tosh.0', and 'Celebrity Big Brother'. He was known for writing his own jokes and carried 15 footlockers of props. One was a "handgun" that fired plastic hands.
In the 1980s, researchers at Loma Linda University in Southern California studying laughter took blood samples from 10 medical students as they watched Gallagher performing, United Press International reported in 1987. Not only did they laugh uproariously, their white blood cells increased. The comedian, the scientists said, appeared to have boosted the subjects’ immune systems, as per the report.
The famous 'Sledge-O-Matic' act is where he'd use a large hammer to smash a bunch of objects and foods, like cantaloupes, cottage cheese, and watermelons of course. The act was based on a parody of the Veg-O-Matic commercial of the 1960s and '70s, which was a gadget for slicing and dicing fruits and vegetables. “Why don’t you hit it with a hammer if you want it in little pieces?” he conveyed the message behind his act.
He had a major health scare back in 2011, as per TMZ, when he collapsed onstage during one of his performance in Minnesota. He had also suffered a heart attack the following year in Texas, moments before his performance act.
Gallagher was born on on July 24, 1946. He is survived by his brother, Ron, daughter, Aimee, his son, Barnaby, and two grandchildren