Comedic legend James Gregory, also known as "The Funniest Man in America," died Thursday of cardiac complications. He had just turned 78 on Monday.

"Today, with heavy hearts, we announce the passing of the Funniest Man in America, comedian James Gregory," a press release stated. "He brought laughter and joy to countless lives, leaving an indelible mark on the world of comedy and those who loved him."

The death was one day before three scheduled performances at StarDome Comedy Club in Hoover. The venue had been refunding tickets for a couple of weeks before Gregory's death. The May 10 and 11 shows were canceled due to his illness.

Gregory, born in his parents' kitchen in Lithonia, Georgia, had been working as a comedian since the early 1980s, with a southern drawl and a down-home, common-sense attitude.

Although he was known nationwide, Southerners related to his skits the most. In particular, his "conspiracy theory" that news networks purposefully interview the most ignorant people they can find after a tornado was one he repeated during his frequent trips to Alabama.

Gregory performed to crowds on stage and radio shows such as "Rick & Bubba," where Rick Burgess called him "a gold standard."

He attempted to serve in the U.S. Marine Corps at 18 but could only stay in the service for a few weeks due to health issues. However, as a patriot, he took several overseas trips to perform for troops. The trips were a selfless service because Gregory always said his biggest fear was flying. He often mentioned his fear of being in planes throughout his 41-year comedy career.

Gregory was proud of his Southern roots and simple ways. In some of his skits, he mentioned death. He said people who are sad, even at funerals, need to laugh. He also said that, being Baptist, he would never be cremated.

"If a Baptist talks about burning something, it's going to be biscuits or leaves," he would say.

Gregory fell on stage during a show in Talladega three years ago. He said the fall was due to vertigo and still joked about it, saying the crowd thought it was part of the skit.

His autobiography, "A Bushel of Beans and a Peck of Tomatoes: The Life and Times of the Funniest Man in America," will be published in November.

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