Gallagher, the prop comic famous for his “Sledge-O-Matic” routine in which he smashed produce (most notably watermelon) with a giant sledgehammer, died on Friday. He was 76.
Gallagher (born Leo Gallagher) died of organ failure, his former manager told Variety, after being in hospice care for several years after suffering multiple heart attacks — the first of which came during a performance in March 2011, in Rochester, Minn.
Gallagher started out as a road manager for comedian Jim Stafford, before branching out with his own routine. He first appeared on Johnny Carson’s vaunted The Tonight Show in December 1975, but his unique act really took off in the 1980s, at which time (and through the early 1990s) he reportedly became one of the top-earning traveling comedy acts.
Gallagher headlined a total of 14 comedy specials for Showtime, starting with An Uncensored Evening in 1980. In March 2012, due to his growing health issues, he announced his retirement from live stage performances.
Along the way, Gallagher ran for Governor of California in 2003, as an Independent; he finished 16th out of 135 candidates.