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Gallagher - More Than Smashed Watermelons

Second Chances #43

By Adam WallacePublished 2 years ago 3 min read

Welcome back to Second Chances where I honor the maligned, forgotten, & ignored, and today's honoree is sadly no longer with us.

On 11 Nov., 2022, the world lost Leo Gallagher. For those who don't know, he was the guy you might've seen on Showtime at some point smashing watermelons with a giant sledgehammer. I lament that that is the image people tend to have when they think of him. I happen to think differently... which is the very thing he encouraged on stage and in his cable specials.

See, Gallagher was my introduction to stand-up comedy. Before I was old enough to absorb George Carlin, Bill Hicks, Richard Pryor, or Eddie Murphy, I was watching this guy painting a map of the country with various foods and explaining how common everyday phrases don't make much sense when you really read into them. In fact, I wasn't the only one to be introduced to Gallagher at an early age. I remember bits of his "Stuck In The 60s" comedy special showing during an episode of Muppet Babies on Saturday morning! That was one of the best things about his act; it was thought-provoking without being too extreme for kids in the 80s. Seriously, his language on stage was safer than that found in PG-13-rated movies

Of course, Gallagher is most well-known as a prop comic. He may have been insulted that he only ranked #100 on Comedy Central's 2004 list of the 100 greatest comedians, but he was also the only prop comic to make the list at all. Prop comedy has a pretty bad reputation thanks to terrible examples like Carrot Top, but Gallagher put clear thought into what he put together. The gadgets were never the whole act, which allowed Gallagher to elevate prop comedy beyond inanity.

In fact, the props tended to add extra punch to his jokes which often revolved around commercialism and language. He particularly liked going after the stupidity of the English language, especially when it comes to common expressions. Have you ever wondered why a collection of small domiciles are called "apartments" when they're all stuck together? How about why "cargo" goes by ship while "shipments" go by car? Those musings became so linked with him that, for the longest time, they were called "Gallagher-isms".

Of course, his "Sledge-A-Matic" routine was his signature closing act. Everyone knows about the produce spraying the audience in the front rows, culminating with a watermelon getting smashed. What people tend to miss is the parody nature of the act. The 80s were the glory time for the ridiculous infomercials advertising junk like Ron Popeil's Veg-O-Matic. That was what Gallagher was poking fun at with the bit, especially with the salesman spiel he always used to start the bit. Also, he was always a great sport about how messy his shows could get. The scraps that fly at the audience are nothing compared to how splattered he ends up doing that bit!

However, by far, the best part about his shows was his common theme where he encouraged people to look at things in a new way. Sometimes the example was as small as a new way to wear an oversized bathing suit, and sometimes it was as wide-scale as dealing with pollution. He admitted that a lot of his best material came from listening to the questions his children asked which helped him see the world with a fresh perspective. I don't know how much his kids contributed to his act in his later years, but they were a godsend during his 80s heyday.

Gallagher was a great comedian who deserved to be remembered for more than just turning produce into jam. He had to retire from the stage in 2020 due to COVID lockdowns and his own failing health. I'm sure he would've wanted to keep going until he keeled over. He clearly always had the time of his life on-stage. If you want to see some of his material, he still has an active YouTube channel with some select bits. However, if you want to see his specials in their entirety, be prepared to stump up some cash on eBay or Amazon. The caps used in this article were from my DVD copies of his "Melon Crazy" and "Over Your Head" specials found in the The Sledge-O-Matic Collection which is now out-of-print (damned Anchor Bay!). Finding a copy now requires at least $200, but you'd be getting all his specials except for his last two, "Tropic of Gallagher" from 2007 and "Gotham Comedy Live" from 2014.

Thank you, Gallagher, for all the laughs over the years and for helping an entire generation find some new eyes.

Any memories of this comedy great you want to share? Let me know, and take care.


About the Creator

Adam Wallace

I put up pieces here when I can, mainly about games and movies. I'm also writing movies, writing a children's book & hosting the gaming channel "Cool Media" on YouTube! Enjoy & find me on Twitter!

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    Adam WallaceWritten by Adam Wallace

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