Comedy Is Not Pretty. And Neither Is Gallagher’s Act

Posted in The World Of Entertainment at 6:59 pm by

Jon Solomon takes a break from installing a hidden camera in the Benson family toilet to forward the following interview with comic legend Gallagher by The Oregonian’s Ed Condran.

Q: You’ve received considerable grief from critics for using props.

A: In the early days, Jay Leno told me that props are the enemy of wit. Now Jay uses props on his show all the time. Dave (Letterman) has smashed things on his show and has worn a Teflon suit. (Editor’s note: Actually, Letterman occasionally wears a Velcro suit.) All that has that Gallagher flair, but I’m not on their shows. It’s amazing. Dave and I used to work the same club in the (San Fernando) Valley all the time.

Q Why won’t Jay Leno or David Letterman book you for their shows, considering you started out together?

A: I don’t know. Johnny (Carson) hated me, and I was on his “Tonight Show.”

Q: How was Letterman’s stand-up?

A: It was terrible. You see how it is every night. He does three jokes. But Dave once told me that he didn’t need an act. He told me that he was going to be a talk-show host. What I never got was that he was never funny enough to be a guest, so how does he become the host? But that’s America for you. America wants the mediocre. It doesn’t want the heroic or the moral.

Q: Much of your set is spontaneous.

A: That’s by design. A spontaneous moment will get twice the response of a set joke. I figured out a long time ago to work spontaneously. Robin Williams does this. But Robin always has C-level jokes since he does them so spontaneously. The thing about him is that when he says something, you think, “What does that mean?” . . . Everything he says seems funny but it’s not really a joke. He was well known for taking jokes because he’s an actor looking for a script. The same goes for Chevy Chase and Tom Hanks.

Q: How was Hank’s stand-up?

A: It was terrible.

Q: But he went on to become a huge star.

A: Yes, it’s frustrating. He didn’t go on the road (as a stand-up) and work anywhere. I went off on the road and worked. He and Michael Keaton would meet someone in the movie business and, bang, they’re millionaires and living in Beverly Hills. You have (my) skill and ability and you’re renting a condo.

Q : So Michael Keaton was a stand-up?

A: He was a terrible comedian. Jim Carrey was embarrassing. He didn’t know where to go with that broad, overplayed action that he has. He could really look stupid. It amazes me that these comedians have serious acting careers.

What qualifies them to be serious actors? Serious actors must be irritated by this. Why does Jim Carrey get a serious part when he got famous by overacting?

Q: How did it feel when you received the news that you were the 100th best stand-up according to Comedy Central?

A: It stunk. I looked at the other people and I was trying to find anyone I ever heard of. How could I be behind people I never heard of? How many of these people stayed in the business for 20 years? I made 13 one-hour shows for Showtime, which are available on videotape. I invented the one-man show on cable.

Q: What’s it like to be an outsider after all these years in the business?

A : It could be worse. I guess I’m lucky I’m not the 101st person on that list. I might not be accepted in New York and L.A., but I have my fans and they’ve been very good to me.

(Gallagher and his not-nearly as successful younger brother,Gallagher II , wondering if Jimmy Kimmel’s people are ever going to call back)

36 responses to “Comedy Is Not Pretty. And Neither Is Gallagher’s Act”

  1. Tommy Hoops says:

    Gallagher wrote: “Jim Carrey was embarrassing. He didn’t know where to go with that broad, overplayed action that he has.”

    Erhm, I dont make it a habit to correct anyone waving a mallet around, but I think Jim Carrey kinda did know where to go with that broad, overplayed action.

    Hopefully some enterprising young Hollywood producer out there – Johann Kugelberg, perhaps? – can develop a project that takes the G-Man’s considerable talents to ‘The Big Screen’. Here’s hoping!

    Tommy Hoops.

  2. CSTB says:

    that’s Johan with one “n”.

  3. Carmen says:

    The people have more money then you because they earned it. Michael Keaton is a great actor. Sorry pal.

  4. CSTB says:

    OK, I think we have conclusive evidence that CSTB is generating far too much traffic. That could be the most fantastic comment we’ve received to date ; “Michael Keaton is a great actor.” Yep, when they talk about the all-time greats, it’ll be Olivier, Brando, DeNiro, Pacino….and Michael Keaton. Thank you, Carmen, for straightening that out for us.

  5. ben schwartz says:

    The sad thing is that the Gallaghers won’t tour as Oasis anymore.

  6. Tommy Hoops says:

    I’m talking about a different Johann, CSTB. Not the one that was *SLANDEROUS REMARK DELETED* or tried to *SLANDEROUS REMARK DELETED*. That guy only used one ‘n’ for his name. Although I heard he removed the second ‘n’ because he was *SLANDEROUS REMARK DELETED*

    Tommy Hoops.

  7. CSTB says:

    For the record, I’d like to point out that Mr. Hoops typed “SLANDEROUS REMARK DELETED” himself and that I’ve never edited anyone’s negative commentary (unless it was about me).

    I don’t mean to restrict your right to take shots at Mr. Kugelberg whenever you desire. For instance, you could start your own blog.

  8. Trisha says:

    Gallagher was one of the first comedians I have ever seen. He tells the truth and makes it funny. I like the other comedians he mentioned, but I do not dislike Gallagher for his opinion. I think Gallagher can see things from his point of view, and I do wish he had made it bigger than he had. I see how his interview sounds narrow and something to critisize, but we all have our thoughts and views on different things. You do not have to agee with him, but I still respect him for the comedian he has worked hard to become, and for standing up for what he believes and not letting others opinions get him down.

  9. Linn says:

    Are you sure you’re talking about the gallagher who is on the picture? ‘Cause he’s no comedian, he’s funny and he has brilliant quotes, but he’s a f*ckin’ rock ‘n’ roll star!

  10. Sean says:

    Hmm. He seems pretty bitter, doesn’t he? I mean, yeah, he’s a good comedian, and I do like some of the people he mentioned as being really bad. And I do feel he’s entitled to his opinion. But he just sounds so negative, and feels like he should’ve gotten the places that everyone else did.

  11. BruceBanner says:

    Gallagher…Is all this talk about the guy, you know the one trick pony cat with the huge hammer or whatever that would smash things…I thought he died…Tell him I said hello and I caught his act in San Antonio when I was like 8

  12. Larry Creasy says:

    Gallagher is one of the funniest people I have ever saw.

  13. Cammy says:

    If Gallagher seems “bitter”, he has every right to be. He has far more talent than Michael Keaton, Tom Hanks, Robin Williams and Jim Carrey, combined. He is a class act and will always be my favorite entertainer. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the luck that those others had, in advancing his career. I would be bitter too.

  14. kevdon says:

    What a very bitter man. Gallagher had 10 years of huge popularity but didn’t save enough money and is now renting a condo? How is this the fault of the American people? I remember watching his specials on Showtime as a kid. He always seemed to be trying to push some sort of hippie political or environmental messages on his audience. It wasn’t funny or particularly insightful. Who wants a lecture from a guy smashing up watermelons? Just shut up and smash the fruit monkey boy.

  15. Gene says:

    I loved watching Gallagher’s specials. I remember watching “Overboard” several times on Showtime. Very funny! I enjoyed the polictical humor he made of both Democrats and Republicans! Good stuff! It’s sad to read what’s happened since then. I wish him happiness and success.

  16. Shawn Gallagher (no relation) says:

    All of Gallagher’s criticisms are RIGHT ON, and being last on the 100 greatest comedians list was an undeserved insult. Being critical can help his career, and I think it’s still possible for him to be rediscovered, but here’s the thing, seeming too bitter will almost certianly assure that he’ll never be popular again.

  17. Amanda says:

    um, i don’t know if some of these comments are for real, but if so you guys are as pathetic and undoubtedly lacking in a sense of humor as gallagher himself. he is so shitty! i agree that anyone who has to rely on props is trying to hide that there is nothing else to do on stage that will be entertaining. i mean, look at his audience–you might as well be at a nursing home in miami. the same people that like gallagher watch “the golden girls” and listen to phil collins. he should feel lucky to have made any part of that list…and something tells me the list makers ran out of names towards the end and got desperate. wow…some of you should really branch out.

  18. kyle says:

    i love how he calls other people lame and stuff when look at his act …it sucks

  19. Zach says:

    I just, this minute, got back to Dallas from seeing Gallagher in Waco. He did four hours! The majority of his act was “stand up”.
    I left as he was going to get the mallet. If he does four hours for a podunk town like Waco, Then I would imagine he puts that effort into all of his shows. It was very funny. I saw many of his Specials as a kid, and none of tonight’s show was recycled. The show was fun and good. I don’t think David Letterman would give anyone four hours–not for what I paid. By the way I don’t watch “Golden Girls” and have no grey hair……

  20. brooks215 says:

    Instead of Garofalo and the other stand up comedians he should rail at Carrot Top ’cause I’m still trying to figure out how he ended up with several movies and a vegas show — that guy has one hell of an agent.

  21. Jon Stafford says:

    One big difference between most of the comics on the Top 100 list and Gallagher: those people are funny. Smashing watermelons? Yeah, that might have seemed funny when I was a kid, but anyone over twelve years old would just think it was lame. In fact, now that I think of it, I saw a Gallagher Showtime special when I was twelve, and I didn’t think it was funny even then. Gallagher’s performance is just all corniness and goofy attitude with few actual jokes. Sort of like Dane Cook but with props.

    And, while I can’t speak to Tom Hanks or Michael Keaton as a stand-up, David Letterman was very funny.

  22. Tony says:

    Yeah, Gallagher sure is a class act.
    Seriously, smashing a watermelon with a hammer for 20 years!? Genius!
    He is such an aristocrat!
    Bullshit, he’s a hack with a lame bit. Yes, watermelons splatter when smashed with a hammer. Get over it, dude.

  23. Seth says:

    Really? Robin Williams isn’t funny? He is one of the best American stand ups in the 20th century.
    Tom Hanks is a fantastic actor (and if you disagree, ask him to show you his Oscar shelf sometime)

    Oh, and who is Gallagher to call Jim Carrey over-the-top?
    His whole bit for the last 20 years has been to hit a WATERMELON with a HAMMER.
    Am I the only one who sees the irony!?

  24. Dan D says:

    Some of you people sound like you never really listened to Gallagher’s standup, the watermelon was only a minor part at the end for a couple minutes, the rest of the hour was intelligent and insightful humor, Like turning up the “intelligence” on the TV, “THERE’S A KNOB MARKED BRIGHTNESS BUT IT DOESN’T WORK”. He talked about government/politics/taxes, environment, women, kids, and the ironies of life, and HE WROTE ALL HIS OWN MATERIAL, unlike many of the more-famous comedians he criticized. Maybe his humor was too intelligent for the general masses, some of whom commented as such here.

  25. rahodeb says:

    wow, the thing i always dug about gallagher was his props! sure, they were a big part of his show – he relied on them, but they sure weren’t a crutch to cover for lack of talent. ever see the bicycle with the car door attached? his stuff was great. as for sledge-o-matic, just think “what song is it you want to hear?”.

  26. Bob says:

    Dan D… well said

    all i can add … is for those who are drawing their conclusions on his recent release “The Tropic of Gallagher” (or anything from late 90’s to present)… i can see your point … but believe me this is an awful representation of his body of work. Sadly what i see is a tremendously sharp great talent who gave everything … who now has reached his golden years feeling burnt out and justifiably ripped off … he certainly deserves much higher praise in the entertainment world and beyond. I think what he has been saying as of late is “fck it… givem what they want, milk it for what it’s worth and cash out”. At his age with all that he has achieved and gone through personally and professionally… i think i would also be sick and tired of the touring, the narrow-minded critics and simpleton public.

    To see this comic genius in his full glory …
    before life hit him up the side of the head with a sledge-o-matic…
    one too many times
    you would be doing yourself a great disservice to miss any of these…
    he was absolutely brilliant:

    (1982) Gallagher: Totally New
    (1983) Gallagher: Stuck in the Sixties
    (1983) Gallagher: The Maddest
    (1984) Gallagher: Melon Crazy
    (1984) Gallagher: Over Your Head
    (1985) Gallagher: The Bookkeeper
    (1987) Gallagher: Overboard
    (1993) Gallagher: We Need a Hero

    anything more recent …
    and you start to see his anger/bitterness more progressively channeled through his routines, interviews and interaction with the public …
    which in heavy doses has the tendency to kill the funny.

  27. Matt Granz says:

    Anyone who sees Gallagher as just a watermelon smasher has missed the whole point of what he does. This one man show is definitely one of the smartest acts going this side of George Carlin. This man makes logic and common sense funny… which is a rarity.

    As for his feelings on other comedians, sometimes we all get too close to the subject matter when we are neck deep in it, but it is a shame that on a top 100 list that he was flat last place.

    That’s my $0.02

  28. Greven says:

    I honestly feel sorry for him. Hes turned into such a bitter pathetic person. The guy never really was that good to begin with. He had some good stuff in the early 80s but the same shit got old -fast-.

    Poor guy though. Guess I might be bitter too if I wasted all my money and my own family hasn’t spoken to me in age. So sad it really is pathetic.

  29. Jude says:

    I think those of us who remember Gallagher in the 70’s and 80’s should show support by attending his current tour that he is doing around the country. I can not thank him enough for the hours of hillarious comedy, that since he was family friendly my parents allowed me to watch. That is when I realized that not everyone laughed at the same things…One person would find something he did a little funny and some one else was rolling on the floor. I discovered my own sense of humor. It set a high bar for my now adult love of intelligent comedy. I plan on finding out where he is performing, buying good seats, and basking in both nostalgic and new humor. I think with age there are some bumps and bruises we have endured, and if asked we might share our feelings if we are not afraid of our peers opinions. Gallagher is not afraid. All in all with aging he has found some comedy wisdom. I for one will take the time and effort to thank him for all he has done for comedy. I hope others will too. There is power in numbers and we are still a valuable demograhic worth listening to.

  30. Gallagher sucks says:

    LOL @ Gallagher! I’m so happy he has been reduced, fuck him for hating on far more successful and far more talented people.

    Gally, ol’ boy, how is the family?


    Fuckin’ loser. Get off this planet, Gall, get off this planet.

  31. JonnyT says:

    For what it’s worth, I remember seeing Gallagher’s Showtime specials, and he had plenty of funny material leading up the food smashing at the end. There certainly are many comedians out there who simply aren’t as funny as he is. But bad mouthing people Tom Hanks and Michael Keaton really doesn’t make sense. They made their mark with their acting ability. I didn’t know before now that either one of them ever did stand-up. Gallagher needs a good therapist, because he acts as if everyone with a bigger career knocked him down and stole his fame and fortune when he wasn’t looking.

  32. scott land says:

    Did you ever have an uncle that was a loud mouth with a strong opinion and everyone at a family party would like to try to avoid? That is Gallagher. But later, when he has moved on in his existence, you remember his rants and raves and conclude he was absolutely right… but he had the finesse of a guy with a sledgehammer. I want that guy with the sledgehammer. I am so tired of todays safe and processed comedy. Gallagher would march to his own beat. He produced his own, personal product. He has no professional promoters… they cost too much and the result is the Hollywood Bull hit that we loathe. I have seen his shows live. They are never phoned in. He works hard. He does not live in a rented condo… He was making a point. Get it. The sad part… is the family break up and that is what makes him a true comedian… the balance of sadness and joy in one’s life makes us all human. All the greats have had sad family relationships. Thank You Leo Gallagher… You are still one of the best…not 100 but in the top for this lover of entertainment and showmanship.
    Scott Land

  33. CJ Lehman says:

    I would be willing to bet that if you asked the age of the those that submitted negative comments about Gallagher you would find that the vast majority of them would be under 20. Then take into consideration the following facts. To them Rap/Hip Hop is music. They can’t do simple math with out the aid of a calculator. If violence is not involved they don’t like it (music, video games, animations, etc…). They do not posess the intelligence to comprehend that comedic talant is not required to recite what someone else wrote for you nor is it having everyother word a swear word. Gallagher wrote ALL his own material and designed his own props which were used to emphasize a particular point of view.

  34. GC says:

    dude, if you’re gonna insult the intellect of the younger generation, please learn how to spell “talent”. In the meantime, hip-hop IS music, violence in art is a reflection of reality…and this fucking commentary thread is closed because the only thing lamer than Gallagher is Gallagher fans. The end. Please die. etc.


  35. […] prop comic. Seems that the dude is a little pissed off. And, it seems, he is not afraid of saying so. Now I have (or had) fond memories of Gallagher from Johnny Carson in the seventies. This was before […]

  36. […] When Comedy Central named him No. 100 on the list of top comedians of all time, he openly complained about being ranked behind a bunch of people that he never even heard of, as if smashing a watermelon and complaining about how words are spelled equates to the thought that most comedians put into their acts. Hey, at least his act is on videotape. […]