Gallagher, the prop comic who made a name for himself smashing watermelons, has died. He was 76.
The comedian's agent confirmed the news to PEOPLE on Friday, sharing that he had "succumbed to his ailments and passed away surrounded by his family in Palm Springs, California."
Gallagher had experienced several health setbacks over the years and was put in a medically induced coma in 2012 after suffering a heart attack. It was his second heart attack in as many years after he collapsed on stage in Minnesota in 2011.
Still, according to a statement by his agent, he "toured steadily until the COVID-19 pandemic, after which he spent his time between visiting his son, Barnaby, and his daughter Aimee, who had appeared with him on his specials when she was little."
Born Leo Anthony Gallagher, Jr., on July 24, 1946, the comic cut his teeth with comedy club gigs before he captured the nation's attention with appearances on The Tonight Show, even though host Johnny Carson famously did not appreciate prop comedy. After his first appearance on Dec. 5, 1975, appearance, Gallagher returned to amuse Carson once more — on May 9, 1979 — and revisited the late-night talk show several times when other comics, including Joan Rivers, filled in for Carson.
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Gallagher's An Uncensored Evening, directed by Mike Nesmith of The Monkees, was the first comedy stand up special ever to air on cable television. He filmed 12 more comedy specials for Showtime over the next 27 years, finding new audiences through re-airings of his specials on MTV and Comedy Central.
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His signature "Sledge-O-Matic" bit parodied the Veg-O-Matic infomercial and always ended in spectacularly messy fashion with the comedian bashing a watermelon to smithereens.
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He also dabbled in politics, running as an independent to become the governor of California in 2003. (He finished 16th out of 135 candidates.)
Admired among comic circles, he was most recently seen (as portrayed by comedian Paul F. Tompkins) in Weird: The Al Yankovic Story. He also appeared over the years on Hollywood Squares, WTF with Marc Maron, Tosh.0, Celebrity Big Brother and in Geico commercials.