Iconic Comedian Famous for Smashing Watermelons Onstage with a Mallet Dies at 76

Leo Anthony Gallagher Jr., the American comedian known simply as Gallagher, has died at 76.

Gallagher was best-known for his 1980 comedy special “An Uncensored Evening” and for his “Sledge-O-Matic” routine where he would smash watermelons and other objects with a mallet.

Gallagher’s longtime manager, Craig Marquardo, told TMZ that Gallagher died on Friday due to massive organ failure. Gallagher had been under hospice care in the Palm Springs, California, area after falling ill.

Gallagher previously had suffered from multiple heart attacks over the years. TMZ reported that in 2011, he collapsed onstage during a show in Minnesota. A year after that, he suffered another heart attack in Texas while preparing for a performance.

“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,” Marquardo told TMZ. “While Gallagher had his detractors, he was an undeniable talent and an American success story.”

According to TMZ, Gallagher earned his big break when he appeared on Johnny Carson’s ‘Tonight Show’ in 1975, and he had 17 different comedy specials during his decades of performance.

However, Gallagher’s sense of humor appeared to be out-of-touch for some. The Miami New Times described his 2011 performance at the Seminole Casino as “aging, confused, defensive, [and] slightly bigoted.”

The critic, Liz Tracy, described herself at the time as “a progressive woman with OCD” and suggested that his primary fan base consisted mostly of “middle-aged white folks.”

Even in death, Gallagher’s critics have condemned him for his offensive jokes.

In reporting the comedian’s death on Friday, Rolling Stone described Gallagher as “the Watermelon-Smashing Comedian Whose Act Turned Bigoted.”

Gallagher was pressed on the issue in a 2011 podcast interview with Marc Maron.

Maron accused him of being racist and attacking gay people, to which Gallagher responded: “Let’s say I tell a joke about a white middle-class man. Does anybody say why do I not like white middle-class men?”

He added, “And what am I making jokes about? I’m making jokes about people who don’t complain.”

When pressed on political labels given to him by the media, such as being “right-wing,” and by Maron, who said he likely was more “libertarian,” Gallagher said he didn’t care about any of that and that he only tells jokes that get a laugh.

“I’m a comic!” Gallagher said.

He added, “I have two stents in my heart. I could die during this interview,” to which Maron responded: “That would be spectacular. That would be a great interview. I would leave it running when the paramedics come.”

The 44-minute interview got heated, and Gallagher walked out after complaining that Maron was “taking the other side of everything I say.”

Maron re-shared the interview after hearing of Gallagher’s death.

Gallagher, who was born in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, on July 24, 1946, is survived by his children, Aimee and Barnaby, according to TMZ.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.