(p. B12) Gallagher, who became one of the most recognizable comedians of the 1980s for an outrageous act that always concluded with him smashing a watermelon with a sledgehammer, died on Friday [Nov. 11, 2022] at his home in Palm Springs, Calif.
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In 1987, United Press International reported that researchers at Loma Linda University in Southern California studying laughter took blood samples from 10 medical students while they watched Mr. Gallagher in action. Not only did they laugh uproariously; their white blood cells increased. The comedian, the scientists said, appeared to have boosted the subjects’ immune systems.
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Much of Mr. Gallagher’s humor was based on wordplay. (“I don’t know why they say you have a baby. The baby has you.” “If pro is the opposite of con, is progress the opposite of Congress?”) But he also prided himself on being outrageous and even offensive, defying political correctness. (Deaf people, he said, should be required to live near airports.) Many people, especially in his later years, felt his jokes about racial groups, gay people and women crossed a line.
“Look around — see any Mexicans?” he said during one 2010 show. “They’ll be here later for the cleanup.”
In 2011, Mr. Gallagher was a guest on his fellow comedian Marc Maron’s podcast but walked out when Mr. Maron asked him about this and similar jokes. Some critics agreed that his act had gone too far. But he never toned it down.
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(Note: the online version of the obituary was updated Nov. 14, 2022, and has the title “Gallagher, Watermelon-Smashing Comedian, Is Dead at 76.”)