WASHINGTON — Gallagher, the prop comedian best known for smashing fruits and vegetables with giant wooden hammers as part of his shows, has died. He was 76.
Gallagher, whose full name is Leo Anthony Gallagher Jr., died Friday morning of organ failure, his former manager confirmed to Variety. Craig Marquardo, in a statement to the Associated Press identifying himself as Gallagher's “longtime former manager,” said that he died at his home in Palm Springs, California, after a brief illness.
TMZ, which first broke the news of Gallagher's death, reported that he had been under hospice care.
The comedian had multiple health scares throughout his career that included collapsing on stage during a performance in Minnesota in 2011. He also suffered multiple heart attacks over the years and initially suspended his comedy club career in 2012 after his third major heart attack. While he eventually returned to performing, Gallagher went out on a "Last Smash Farewell Tour" in 2019.
According to his website, Gallagher was featured in 14 Showtime TV specials and performed 3,500 live shows.
His signature comedy sketch was the "Sledge-O-Matic," with the comedian using his giant wooden hammer to smash all sorts of food and items.
Even after retirement and through his health struggles, Gallagher remained a pop culture icon. He appeared in several commercials including ones for Budweiser and Geico.
Gallagher was a Fort Bragg, North Carolina, native who started out in 1960 as road manager for the comedian/musician Jim Stafford and soon began performing himself, honing his act at the Comedy Store and other clubs.
He became increasingly controversial in recent years, chastised for racist and homophobic remarks. Gallagher even cut short an interview in 2011 with Marc Maron after the WTF podcast host confronted him about his statements.
In 2003, Gallagher was among more than 100 candidates running in the recall election for California governor, won by Arnold Schwarzenegger.
More recently, he was played by comedian Paul F. Tompkins in Weird Al Yankovic's new parody biopic movie.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.