NEW YORK (AP) — Gallagher, the long-haired comedian who left a trail of laughter, anger and shattered watermelons over a decades-long career, has died at 76.

Craig Marquardo, in a statement identifying himself as Gallagher’s “former longtime manager”, said he died Friday at his home in Palm Springs, Calif., after a brief illness. Gallagher had many heart attacks over the years, including one just before a scheduled show in Texas in 2012.

With a beret on his head and a few simple accessories, from an oil can to a whip, the man born Leo Anthony Gallagher Jr. rose to national prominence in the 1970s and 1980s, appearing on the show “Tonight” with Johnny Carson. and featured in numerous Showtime specials. His act included observational humor (“What about Easter? Who came up with the idea of ​​giving eggs to a hopping animal”), political commentary (“They don’t call a tax a tax. They call it a revenue amplifier”), invented sports (Synchronized Ping-Pong) and its brand of destruction Sledge-O-Matic.

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” Ladies and gentlemen ! I didn’t come here tonight just to make you laugh. I came here to sell you something, and I want you to pay close attention! he shouted in his best speedy imitation of a late-night TV pitcher. “The amazing Master Tool Corporation, a subsidiary of Fly-By-Night Industries, entrusted who? Me! To show you! The most practical and stylish kitchen tool you’ve ever seen.”

Sledgehammer in hand, he would then apply all his muscle to apples, grapes, lettuce and other produce, the most famous being the inevitable watermelon, with onlookers in front covered in morsels of food.

Gallagher was a native of Fort Bragg, North Carolina who started in 1960 as a road manager for comedian/musician Jim Stafford and soon began performing, honing his act at the Comedy Store and in gigs. other clubs. He wasn’t the only comedian in the family: his younger brother Ron became a comedian, received Leo’s initial blessing, and looked and acted enough like his better-known sibling that some audiences wouldn’t know who they had come to see. Leo Gallagher finally got a court injunction barring his brother from using his routines.

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The elder Gallagher has become increasingly controversial in recent years, chastised for racist and homophobic remarks. Gallagher even cut short a 2011 interview with Marc Maron after the WTF podcast host confronted him about his statements.

“I’m the problem?!” Gallagher said at one point. “Do you think when I’m dead gays will finally have a chance in America? Did I really hold them back?”

In 2003, Gallagher was among more than 100 candidates running in California’s recall election for governor, won by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Over the past decade, Gallagher has appeared in a Geico commercial and in the movie “The Book Of Daniel.”

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