Gallagher (Comedian) Biography
Gallagher was the stage name of American comedian Leo Anthony Gallagher Jr., who was born on July 24, 1946 and passed away on November 11, 2022. Gallagher was noted for his observational and prop comedy, as well as the fact that he would crush watermelons as part of his act. He has a number of successful specials on HBO as well as thirteen comedy specials on Showtime.
On July 24, 1946, Gallagher was born to parents of Irish and Croatian descent in the city of Fort Bragg, located in the state of North Carolina. His asthma forced his family to relocate from Lorain, Ohio, where he had lived until the age of nine, to South Tampa, Florida, and it was there that he received his high school education at H.B. Plant. After that, he continued his education at the University of South Florida and earned a degree in chemical engineering in 1970. He studied English literature as part of his minor.
After graduating from college, Gallagher started working as the tour manager for the comedian and musician Jim Stafford. In 1969, Stafford and Gallagher took a trip to California, and while they were there, Gallagher made the decision to start performing by himself. While he was a regular at both The Comedy Store and The Ice House, he started developing his own stand-up comedy act. Even though Johnny Carson was the host of The Tonight Show and Carson was not a fan of prop comedy, he performed two times on the show.  The first time he appeared on the show was on December 5, 1975, when he exhibited his prop called “The Tonight Show Home Game.” He subsequently came on the show once again on May 9, 1979. In addition, he gave performances on the show on other occasions while guest hosts were serving in Carson’s place.
During the 1980s, Gallagher was one of the most well-known and well-liked comedic performers in the United States.
He appeared in a total of fourteen stand-up comedy specials for Showtime, all of which have been shown multiple times, most notably on Comedy Central.
In the California gubernatorial recall election of 2003, Gallagher finished 16th out of 135 candidates with a total of 5,466 votes. He was running as an independent candidate for governor.
Conflict with brother
Ron Gallagher, Gallagher’s younger brother, approached Gallagher in the early 1990s to inquire about obtaining permission to use Gallagher’s signature Sledge-O-Matic technique in live performances. Ron Gallagher, who had a striking resemblance to Leo Gallagher, and his management were had to specify in all promotional materials that it was Ron Gallagher, not Leo Gallagher, who would be performing. Gallagher agreed to this condition and provided his consent. When Ron performed, he was almost always found in more intimate settings than those in which Leo Gallagher was found. After a period of time, Ron began to market his performance under the name Gallagher Too or Gallagher Two. When Ron’s performance was marketed in some situations, the fact that he was not the original Gallagher was obscured in a manner that did not make it evident to the audience. Leo’s reputation was tarnished as a result of this, in addition to Ron’s problems that occurred off stage.
At first, Gallagher’s response consisted of a simple plea that his brother refrain from doing the Sledge-O-Matic act. However, Ron continued to tour as Gallagher Too utilizing the same technique throughout the years. In August of 2000, Gallagher filed a lawsuit against his brother, alleging that the latter had violated their trademark and engaged in fraudulent advertising. In the end, the courts agreed with him, and he was awarded an injunction that prohibited Ron from performing any act that impersonated his brother in intimate settings such as nightclubs and concert halls. Because of this order, Ron was banned from bearing any intentional resemblance to Leo.
The “Sledge-O-Matic,” a giant wooden mallet that Gallagher used to shatter a variety of food items and other things, concluding with a watermelon, was the centerpiece of the sketch that became known as Gallagher’s signature drawing. In addition to that, it contained a number of different props, such as a giant trampoline that was made to look like a couch.
The Sledge-O-Matic act is an example of physical prop comedy. However, the act itself was a parody of advertisements for the Ronco Veg-O-Matic, a kitchen tool that was heavily advertised on American television from the mid-1960s through the 1970s. Even the name of the act was a parody of those advertisements.
Wordplay was another component of Gallagher’s performance, and he used it to call attention to the peculiarities of the English language.
In a performance that he gave in Cerritos, California, in the month of July 1999, he employed a number of stereotypes that were seen to be disrespectful toward Mexicans.
In January 2011, Gallagher walked out of comedian Marc Maron’s WTF podcast when Maron continued to ask Gallagher about the controversial jokes after Gallagher had responded that, out of a two-to-three-hour show, there were only five jokes, which he had “heard on the street.” Maron continued to ask Gallagher about the jokes after Gallagher had responded that, out of a two-to-three-hour show, there were only five jokes, which Following the event, in a subsequent interview in which the issue was briefly discussed, Gallagher accused Maron of “taking the opposite side of everything.” In succeeding years, a number of critics condemned Gallagher’s performance for what they claimed were regular instances of homophobia, paranoid connotations, and racist undertones.
Gallagher was featured in a television ad for GEICO Insurance in the month of July 2012, where he performed his Sledge-O-Matic performance once again.
Gallagher continued to tour right up until the early 2020s, despite the fact that he was having major heart problems in his 60s and early 70s. At that point, the COVID-19 pandemic mainly compelled him to quit touring.
Though it varied from performance to performance, Gallagher would usually end each of his shows with his signature “Sledge-O-Matic” routine.
It traditionally began with the following preamble:
“Ladies and gentlemen! I did not come here tonight just to make you laugh. I came here to sell you something and I want you to pay particular attention!
The amazing Master Tool Corporation, a subsidiary of Fly-By-Night Industries, has entrusted who? Me! To show you! The handiest and the dandiest kitchen tool you’ve ever seen. And don’t you wanna know how it works!?
Well, first you get out an ordinary apple. You place the apple between the patented pans. Then you reach for the tool that is not a slicer, is not a dicer, is not chopper in a hopper! What in the hell could it possibly be?! The Sledge-O-Matic!”
Gallagher would then produce a large, usually wooden, mallet, roughly the size of a sledgehammer, and smash it down onto the apples, hurling chunks of produce into the audience. People in the first several rows were usually prepared with tarps and raincoats, and many comedy clubs took great measures to cover up and protect their interiors with tarps and plastic sheeting.
Due to the chaotic and unruly nature of his concerts, there have been instances where members of the crowd have been hurt while attending Gallagher’s shows.
A woman in the crowd at a performance that took place on September 29, 1990, at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano was injured when she was hit on the head by a hefty plush penguin that contained a fire extinguisher inside it. After that, she filed a lawsuit against the comedian, claiming that she incurred $13,000 in medical expenses, $20,000 in lost pay, and punitive damages that reportedly exceeded $100,000. After a rowdy trial in which Gallagher himself took the witness and reputedly garnered as many laughs as he did during one of his shows, the jury ultimately sided with Gallagher, and the case was brought to trial in 1993. Gallagher was ultimately successful in obtaining a favorable verdict from the jury. Later on, the judge who was in charge, William Froberg, stated “… in my seven years of experience as a judge, I’ve presided over a variety of personalities, but none so theatrical as… It was enjoyable to watch. It was in no way a dull experience.”
On July 8, 2010, a woman rushed the stage at a play that was taking place at the Washington County Fair in Hillsboro, Oregon. She then stumbled on some debris and was brought to the hospital for treatment of her injuries.
In 2004, Comedy Central placed Gallagher in the 100th spot on their list of all-time best stand-up comedians. Gallagher was dissatisfied with his ranking, and he expressed his frustration by saying the following to The Oregonian: “I looked at the other folks, and I was trying to locate somebody I ever heard of.” How is it possible that I am behind individuals that I have never heard of? … Showtime has a videotape collection of all 13 of the one-hour shows that I produced for them. I was the first person to have a one-man show on cable television.”
Gallagher joked that he was “broke” and stated that he had gambled away almost all of his fortune on the stock market. He claimed that he had lost almost all of his fortune. On the other hand, his longtime manager said that this was an exaggeration for comedy effect and added, “We all need to be as broke as Leo.”
On March 10, 2011, in Rochester, Minnesota, Gallagher passed out on stage while performing, clutching his chest. The incident occurred on that day. He was taken by ambulance to Saint Marys Hospital, where doctors found that he had experienced a lesser kind of a heart attack.
A year later, on March 14, 2012, shortly before he was scheduled to play in Lewisville, Texas, Gallagher started experiencing severe chest problems for the first time. According to Gallagher’s manager, the comedian had a heart attack that ranged from “mild to serious.” He was taken to the hospital and put into a medically induced coma, where he remained as specialists worked to figure out what was wrong with his heart. On March 18, 2012, after having two coronary stents replaced, he was gradually brought out of the coma by medical professionals. He rapidly made a full recovery and resumed his conversation with his family. His manager, Christine Sherrer, said that he was breathing on his own, moving around, and telling jokes. She also said that he was conscious.
Gallagher passed away on November 11, 2022, in Palm Springs, California, after he suffered multiple organ failure and was receiving hospice care for his condition. He was 76. He was survived by his two children, Barnaby and Aimee, the latter of whom made an appearance as a youngster in some of his Showtime specials. He was a very successful actor.
- An Uncensored Evening (1980)
- Mad as Hell & Two Real (1981)
- Totally New (1982)
- That’s Stupid (1982)
- Stuck in the Sixties (1983)
- The Maddest (1983)
- Melon Crazy (1984)
- Over Your Head (1984)
- The Bookkeeper (1985)
- The Messiest (1986); contains clips from previous specials
- Overboard (1987)
- We Need a Hero (1992)
- Smashing Cheeseheads (1997)
- Messin’ Up Texas (1998)
- Sledge-O-Matic.com (2000)
- Tropic of Gallagher (2007)[
- Gotham Comedy Live (2014); episode “Gallagher” recorded on October 9 at the Gotham Club in Chelsea in New York City
- Record City (1978)
- The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour (1988 TV series); 1 episode
- “Nontourage” (2010 short)
- The Book of Daniel (2013) as Astrologer-Abib
- Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour (1983) – Game Show Participant / Celebrity Guest Star
- The Eric Andre Show (2013) – Cameo
- Celebrity Big Brother 2 (2019) – Guest, performed Sledge-O-Matic routine for a Power of Veto Competition.