Gallagher (comedian)

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Gallagher in 2007
Born Leo Anthony Gallagher, Jr.
(1946-07-24) July 24, 1946 (age 68)
Fort Bragg, North Carolina
Occupation Comedian
Years active 1969–present

Gallagher (born Leo Anthony Gallagher, Jr., on July 24, 1946) is an American comedian and prop comic, known for smashing watermelons as part of his act.

Early life[edit]

Leo Anthony Gallagher was born at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He grew up in Lorain, Ohio til he was 9 years old, because of his asthma, he then moved to South Tampa, Florida, where he attended H.B. Plant High School. He graduated from the University of South Florida with a Chemical Engineering degree in 1970.[1] He also received a minor in English Literature, which he used often in his skits to mock the language.


After college, Gallagher began working as comic/musician Jim Stafford's road manager. Stafford and Gallagher traveled to California in 1969, during which time Gallagher decided to perform himself. He began honing his own comedy act while frequenting both The Comedy Store and the Ice House. He was repeatedly denied appearance on The Tonight Show in the 1970s and 1980s, as Johnny Carson disliked prop comedy.[2] However, he was liked by some of the program's staff, and Gallagher eventually performed several times on the show when guest hosts were filling in for Carson.[2]

Gallagher was one of the most popular and recognizable American comedians during the 1980s. He performed 14 comedy specials for Showtime. These shows have been re-broadcast numerous times, notably on Comedy Central.

Running for Governor (as an independent) in the 2003 California recall election, Gallagher finished 16th out of 135 candidates with 5,466 votes.[3]

Conflict with brother's act[edit]

In the early 1990s Gallagher's younger brother, Ron Gallagher, asked him for permission to perform shows using Gallagher's trademark Sledge-O-Matic routine. Gallagher granted his permission on the condition that Ron and his manager made it clear in promotional materials that it was Ron Gallagher, not Leo Gallagher, who was performing. After several years, Ron began promoting his act as Gallagher Too or Gallagher Two. In some instances, Ron's act was promoted in a way that provided no clue to prospective attendees that they were not seeing the original Gallagher.[4][5]

Gallagher initially attempted to stop his brother from performing these activities by requesting that he not use the Sledge-O-Matic routine. These efforts proved futile, as Ron kept touring as Gallagher Too and using the Sledge-O-Matic routine. In August 2000, Gallagher sued his brother for trademark violations and false advertising.[4] The courts ultimately sided with Leo Gallagher, and an injunction was granted prohibiting Ron from performing any act that impersonates his brother in small clubs and venues. This injunction also prohibited Ron from intentionally bearing likeness to his brother.[5]

Comedy style[edit]

Gallagher's signature sketch is a pitch for the "Sledge-O-Matic," a large wooden mallet that he uses to smash a variety of food items and other objects, culminating with a watermelon. In addition to the Sledge-O-Matic, Gallagher's act features a variety of props, including a large trampoline designed to look like a couch.[6]

While the Sledge-O-Matic act is an example of physical prop comedy, the act itself (and even its name) is a parody of ads for the Ronco Veg-O-Matic, a kitchen appliance that was heavily advertised on American television from the mid-1960s through the 1970s. Gallagher also uses wordplay in his act, pointing out the eccentricities of the English language.

In the 2010s, Gallagher's act evolved to include jokes widely considered to be racist, homophobic, and xenophobic.[7][8][9] In January, 2011, Gallagher walked out of comedian Marc Maron's WTF podcast when Maron continued to ask Gallagher about the allegations, with Gallagher responding that it was five jokes that he had heard on the street out of a 2–3 hour show. Gallagher accused Maron of "taking the other side of everything" he said in the interview.[2][10]

In July 2012, Gallagher was featured in a television commercial for GEICO insurance, repeating his Sledge-O-Matic bit.[11]

As of 2014, Gallagher is doing a 'farewell' tour, as his four heart attacks have increasingly threatened his life, and he now prefers to dedicate more time to his other interests and pursuits.


In 2004, Comedy Central rated Gallagher the 100th best stand-up comedian of all time.[12] Gallagher was displeased with being ranked so low, and he told The Oregonian, "I looked at the other people and I was trying to find anyone I ever heard of. How could I be behind people I never heard of? ... I made 13 one-hour shows for Showtime, which are available on videotape. I invented the one-man show on cable."

Personal life[edit]

Gallagher reportedly lost nearly the entirety of his fortune in stock market speculation gone wrong, and jokes that he is currently 'broke'. Though, his long time manager disputes this as a bit of comedic exaggeration adding "We all need to be as broke as Leo".[13]

During a performance on March 10, 2011, in Rochester, Minnesota, Gallagher collapsed on stage, gripping his chest. He was rushed to Saint Marys Hospital, where it was determined that he had suffered a minor heart attack.[14]

A year later, on March 14, 2012, just before a performance in Lewisville, Texas, Gallagher began to experience intense chest pains. Gallagher's manager said the comic suffered a "mild to serious" heart attack and was placed in the hospital in a medically induced coma while doctors tried to determine what was wrong with his heart.[15][16] After replacing two coronary stents, doctors slowly brought him out of the coma on March 18, 2012. He quickly recovered and started talking to his family. His manager, Christine Sherrer, stated that he was breathing on his own, moving, and telling jokes.[17]


Comedy specials[edit]

  • An Uncensored Evening (1980)
  • Mad as Hell/Two Real (1981)
  • Totally New (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)
  • (2000)
  • Tropic of Gallagher (2007)[18]
  • Live in Chelsea (working title) (2014) recorded on October 9th at the Gotham Club in Chelsea, Manhattan


External links[edit]