Gallagher, the comedian who rose to fame in 1980 with a comedy special directed by a member of the legendary Monkees, has died at the age of 76.
“An Uncensored Evening,” the first comedy special to air on cable TV and directed by Mike Nesmith of the Monkees, preceded 13 Showtime stand-up specials starring Gallagher, whose first name was Leo.
Gallagher’s signature sketch was him pitching “Sledge-O-Matic,” a wooden mallet he utilized to smash one food after another, ending with a watermelon. The act parodied the Ronco Veg-O-Matic, which was widely advertised on TV starting in the mid-1960’s.
A typical pitch for the machine from Gallagher sounded like this:
Ladies and gentlemen! I did not come here tonight just to make you laugh. I came here to sell you something and I want you to pay particular attention!
The amazing Master Tool Corporation, a subsidiary of Fly-By-Night Industries, has entrusted who? Me! To show you! The handiest and the dandiest kitchen tool you’ve ever seen. And don’t you wanna know how it works!?
Well, first you get out an ordinary apple. You place the apple between the patented pans. Then you reach for the tool that is not a slicer, is not a dicer, is not chopper in a hopper! What in the hell could it possibly be?! The Sledge-O-Matic!
Audiences in the first few rows for Gallagher’s performances routinely wore tarps and raincoats to protect themselves from the onslaught of foods.
In 1990, a woman in the audience at one of Gallagher’s shows, Robin Vann, was hit by a two-foot tall, 10-pound penguin with a fire extinguisher inside it that had been swung back-and-forth by Gallagher, then flew loose into the audience. She later sued him, but the judge at the trial, William Froeberg, ruled for the comedian, whose testimony elicited much laughter. Froeberg later said “… in seven years on the bench, I’ve seen a lot of characters, but none so theatrical. It was entertaining. It certainly wasn’t boring.”
“Defense attorneys presented medical forms showing that Vann was in a car accident a year after the Coach House incident and that she claimed to suffer head and neck pain as a result of that crash,” The Los Angeles Times reported. “They also showed jurors medical reports that indicated Vann had a history of headache problems, conflicting with her testimony.”
“The penguin is very excited too,” Gallagher said after the verdict. “I told you all along the penguin was innocent. This has been the most fun I’ve ever had.”
Gallagher suffered a minor heart attack on March 10, 2011, on stage in Minnesota; on March 14, 2012, he suffered chest pains before a Texas performance. His manager said he had suffered a “mild to serious” heart attack.