Comedy Legend Gallagher Dies at 76, Social Media Mourns

by Caitlin Berard
(Photo by Paul Natkin/Getty Images)

Earlier today, the longtime manager of prop comedy legend Gallagher revealed the heartbreaking news that the comedian had died at the age of 76. After years of suffering from declining health, including multiple heart attacks, Gallagher passed away under hospice care in Palm Springs from massive organ failure.

Among the most recognizable comedians in American history, news of Gallagher’s death traveled fast, with countless fans taking to social media to mourn the loss. Though Gallagher rose to fame in the 70s and 80s, his signature “Sledge-O-Matic” bit continues to delight audiences to this day.

“Gallagher was my first favorite comedian. So much so, I would dress like him and my pic was in his tour magazine. When I saw him as an adult, he remembered me and let me use the Sledge-O-Matic on stage. RIP,” wrote one of the comedian’s many lifelong fans.

“Gallagher was so funny and wild, may he rest in peace and smash things up there too!” said another. “Gallagher, off to the great watermelon patch in the sky. Rest in peace, sir.”

Through his more than 40-year career, the comedian inspired many others with his watermelon-smashing antics. It’s no surprise, then, that countless budding comedians look to him for inspiration as well.

“Gallagher defined my comedy style from childhood,” one such fan wrote. “Satires, parodies, and props. A master of these types of comedies. Don’t think of it as he’s the watermelon guy. He did that for 2 minutes at the end of an hour show. His comedy is grossly underrated. This one hurts me.”

Legendary Comedian Gallagher Lives on Through Sledge-O-Matic Legacy

In 1975, Johnny Carson welcomed a then-little-known prop comedian named Gallagher to the Tonight Show stage. He was a little hesitant about the guest, as he wasn’t the world’s biggest fan of prop comedy, but he and his producers decided to give the young comic a shot.

Well, while Johnny Carson might not have enjoyed the set, countless across the country were now Gallagher fans. And by the 80s, Gallagher was a household name with his Sledge-O-Matic standup bit. Though it’s true that the sledgehammer was a small part of his act, all things considered, it’s far and away what the celebrated comedy is best known for.

The comedian would send guests home covered in cake, sandwich meat, grape juice, and, of course, watermelon. And they loved every minute of it! By the end of his career, Gallagher had created a number of popular specials for HBO and a whopping 13 for Showtime.

Gallagher amassed such widespread success that his performances were parodied by other legendary comedians, such as Dave Chappelle and Weird Al Yankovic. What began as a parody of Veg-O-Matic commercials became one of the most celebrated acts in comedy history.