A Relic from the Past?

I spent my evening watching Gallagher last night.

I would never waste an iota of my time watching some aged prop comedian do nothing but smash watermelons and “pies” for an hour – at least, under normal circumstances. But then, I read this fantastically insane interview from the AVClub, an incredibly eye-opening revelation on the mind of this played-out comedian: by which I mean I never would have thought that the one-note version of Carrot Top would have such strong, angry and utterly senile point of view. (While the inability to understand why comedians bring water on stage is pretty astounding, his complete incomprehension of the advantages of home-team games is my favorite part.) Please read it; you won’t regret it.

Gallagher, I suddenly realized, is essentially Peter Finch from Network without a producer crazy enough to give him a show. And a hammer. Suddenly, my mind started reeling: you mean to tell me that his “comedy” “routine” contains MORE than smashing shit with a hammer? I had to go and figure out what else goes on during one of his shows, something he would describe as “performance” “art”.

The Stone Pony in Asbury Park is a fairly crappy venue, a club of all-black walls and local rock bands that hosts mostly that older crowd that still thinks they’re Forever Young. As I entered and paid for my ticket, I asked the lady manning the both how the sales were that night. “Pretty good,” she said. “We have about three hundred people.” Huh. Scanning the crowd, I certainly didn’t see about “three hundred” people. Maybe one hundred and fifty. Maybe the staff bought more tickets to make Gallagher feel good? I have no idea.

For someone harping on his professionalism, he started thirty minutes late. He came on stage and, god help me, I had no idea what was happening. He began by throwing Hershey Kisses at the crowd, and somehow tied it to finding cocaine. He mentioned how he wouldn’t want to be president because “they examine your life too closely”. He’d like to be a king or ruler, though; but wants everyone to think for themselves, since anything else would be communism.

Gallagher has absolutely no concept of irony; or, at the very least, no idea how hypocritically asinine he sounds. He has does have a routine, which begins comparing kids that wear sagging pants to prisoners (he actually compares a lot of people to prisoners). He has issues with, uh, telephone poles on roads, and words that end in vowels. Words have too many meanings! Mexicans haven’t changed their language over time! (I assume he means Spanish, and yes, yes it has changed over time).

His jokes are terrible, mainly because they’re wrong. I don’t mean offensive, but incorrect. The audience cheered with mediocre enthusiasm – that overweight, pro-family-values “teabagger” crowd (no black people, save for the two woman that worked there) . No one laughed, per se, but mostly agreed with him. Someone next to me was on the phone and mentioned how “funny” Gallagher was, but he never actually laughed at him. Comedy, these days, is about agreeing with your audience. Gallagher actually admits this.

He then starts to ramble, literally just a number of nonsensical “observations,” which actually did make me laugh. He sounded like Grandpa on The Simpsons; one gold rant had him complaining about Northface backpacks, and why they didn’t call it Southface, because they wouldn’t climb in the South. Or something. It was bizarre.

Two particular moments stand out. One: he called a few ladies on stage and had them wear boxers with holes cut out the crotch for shirts. One of them, a “dancer” named Sugar, was forced to hula hoop on a table.

Gallagher and the Slut

Best picture I took of the night. (Click to see larger.)

This led to some dude who looked like Super Mario with a cigar to hit on her for some after-club activities. She was quite drunk, and he and the gal starting talking really loud, which got the audience pissed. I was disappointed that a fight didn’t break out.

The second, more disturbing part was when a father forced his seven year-old kid onto the stage for a Gallagher bit, which consisted of eating Pepto-Bismol-covered dog food and spam. Gallagher proceeds to berate the kid, who clearly is nervous and utterly embarrassed. It was probably the most awkward thing I’ve ever seen, made even more awkward when Gallagher called his father on stage. Come to find out, he was actually his STEPfather (Gallagher to kid: “you’re gonna get divorced when you grow up!”), and when he refused to take his son’s place to eat the shit, made the kid do it. He at least got to spit it up, but then Gallagher threw soda in his face. The stepfather just laughed.

I’m pretty sure that’s enough evidence to call DYFS.

By this time, two bloody hours went by, and the audience mistook their exasperation and annoyance for general fatigue (Gallagher kept comparing his will to Springsteen). And so came the pies and the cakes and the watermelon, and he smashed them one after the other, to the delight of the crowd, and it was at this point I realized something.

His smashing act is the penultimate act of a terrible, horrendous routine of nonsense. A character clearly in need of medication and bed rest is left to scream and yell (and cough and almost pass out on stage) until the crowd gets annoyed of the shit. Then he smashes food, both to wake up the crowd AND let loose the last bastions of his unrepentant anger; I swear it looked like he was about to cry as he kept swinging his hammer, and for a moment, I kinda felt bad for this guy, a figure that clearly is stuck in his non-existent America, happy to cater to his ignorant fan-base, mistaking comedic adaptation with stupid conformity. I wanted to ask about his issues with water, but I no longer had the heart. Like so many bigoted Archie Bunkers, I thought it better to let it go.

Plus, I needed to get the hell out of there.

“You fight stupidity with stupidity,” Gallagher said. That pretty much sums up the act.


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  1. #1 by Jon on January 12, 2010 - 2:38 pm

    Oh–there goes another holy cow of my childhood. First Dennis Miller goes all conservative, now Gallagher? Who knew? Who cared?

  2. #2 by Buck Hopper on February 3, 2010 - 5:06 pm

    When I was in high school, my family went to see Gallagher perform during a trip to Las Vegas. He was close to an hour late on stage– to the point that the audience was starting to get angry. But he dissipated that anger pretty quickly when he charged on stage and immediately sprayed the audience with water.

    My recollection of his routine is fuzzy, but I remember my parents commenting on the fact that his act was much angrier than the performances he’s released on VHS– which was how I became familiar with him. I think my father said something about figuring this was the post-divorce Gallagher.

    But the most amazing thing about that performance was that he never pulled out the Sledge-o-matic. He rambled on, tipping between crude and clever for a couple hours, to the point that he commented the staff were asking him to wrap up, but he had more to say. And then he waved and left the stage with the audience clean and dry.

    Did he forget? Was he not allowed to? Has anyone else ever seen him perform and not seen the hammer come out?

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