Gallagher, Tampa’s watermelon-smashing comedian, dies at 76

Gallagher, Tampa’s watermelon-smashing comedian, dies at 76

TAMPA — Melon-smashing comedian and Tampa-raised Leo Gallagher Jr., known only as Gallagher, died Friday, his former manager confirmed to Variety and TMZ. He was 76.

“Gallagher has been in hospice care in California after suffering multiple heart attacks in recent years,” Variety reported.

Gallagher gained notoriety for prop comedy, particularly using a giant wooden mallet called a sledge-o-matic to smash food and other items, spilling a watermelon as a result.

He was born on July 24, 1946, in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and spent his childhood in Cleveland before his parents moved to Tampa, hoping the air would be better for his asthma.

According to the late Tampa radio personality Ted Webb’s website, Gallagher “spent a lot of time as a boy riding his bicycle along El Prado Boulevard near Manhattan Avenue. Friends remember him hurling insults and weirdos at anyone who would listen as he passed on his souped-up schwinn. used to comment

Gallagher’s father built a skating rink on Armenia Avenue. He attended Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Dale Mabry and graduated from HB Plant High School in 1964. He then enrolled at the University of South Florida, but moved to Los Angeles just one credit short of graduating.

Gallagher was seen leaving The Howard Stern Show on August 29, 2000. [ RICK MACKLER | ZUMA Press ]

He eventually moved back to Tampa and worked at Lum’s Hot Dog Restaurant on Hillsborough Avenue. That’s when he began developing his Sledge-O-Matic routine, based on a television infomercial for the Ronco Veg-O-Matic.

Gallagher’s first break came when he opened for musician Bobby Rydell in Tampa. He then toured with musicians Jim Stafford and Kenny Rogers in the late 1970s.

In 1975, he starred in “The Mike Douglas Show,” a nationally broadcast television talk show, according to

Five years later, Gallagher filmed his first television special, “Gallagher: An Uncensored Evening,” during which his biggest audience was introduced to his watermelon-smashing antics. describes the special as one “that audiences were sick of.”

In later years, audience members wore raincoats and brought umbrellas to his shows for protection against flying fruit.

Your weekend plans?

Your weekend plans?

Subscribe to our free Top 5 Things to Do newsletter

Every Thursday we’ll share ideas for going out, staying at home or spending time outside.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletter in your inbox? Let’s begin.

Explore all your options

In the 1980s, he remained a pop culture icon, appearing regularly on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson”, “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” and “Match Game/Hollywood Square Hour”.

Variety estimates he performed more than 3,500 live shows during his four decades on the road. It includes 16 television specials that aired on HBO and Showtime.

He was controversial. Racial, sexist and homophobic jokes that were acceptable early in his career were later deemed offensive.

He didn’t care.

“They said, ‘Gallagher, you can’t be on TV, you’re insensitive to the needs of people with disabilities,'” she said on a 2013 show. “I said, ‘Me too. That’s why I use all their parking spaces. I don’t know why they have to be so close. It’s not like they have to walk.’

Through it all, Tampa residents considered him one of their own.

“Plant High School and USF alum, Gallagher, has passed away,” Tampa City Councilman Guido Maniscalco wrote on Facebook.

Clark Brooks, a Tampa standup comedian and editor of the Tampa News Force satire website, said Gallagher “is a true game changer, having dominated cable TV comedy for years before everyone made specials. The fact that he’s from Tampa is a scene before the Bay Area.” put the region’s comedy scene on the map.”

information from a 2013 Tampa Bay Times profile on Gallagher was used for this report.

#Gallagher #Tampas #watermelonsmashing #comedian #dies

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button