Gallagher still has a smashing good time

The Baltimore Sun

Fame and success came fast for comedian Gallagher.

His third-ever gig as a comic was opening for country music legend Kenny Rogers in Dallas in front of 17,000 people, he recalls. Audiences loved his colorful clothing and trademark watermelon bashing, and his TV series and specials made him a smash hit (pun intended).

Nearly 30 years since his explosive start, Gallagher is still bashing fruit and making snappy remarks about society. The clubs are smaller and so are the crowds, but that barely puts a dent in Gallagher's gusto. And at 62, he doesn't mind poking fun at himself and his career.

"Here's what's happening in my life: I'm working my way down," he said.

When Gallagher made his debut decades ago, his mixture of sharp-witted social commentary and physical stunts was relatively unheard of in prime-time comedy. Gallagher thought suit-clad comics such as Johnny Carson were too stiff. He admired fellow comedian George Carlin for growing out his hair and wearing T-shirts, and wanted to take that idea a step further.

"I didn't think comedians did it right, and I wanted to show them how to be a comedian," he said. "I wanted colors. I'm not saying, 'Be a clown,' but you certainly shouldn't appear like you're selling insurance."

Over the years, Gallagher has become less known for his stand-up routine than he is for showering audience members with bashed fruit. He thinks that's the main reason why people come to see him.

"It's just like hockey," he said. "They don't care about anything but the fight."

Well, that's a slight exaggeration, he acknowledges. Not only does he still do monologues, he regularly comes up with new material and feeds off the energy in the room. He picks out crowd members to join him on stage and signs autographs for anyone who wants one. This mix of monologues, audience participation and melon-pummeling helps keep his performances fresh, he said.

"If you poke at the same area, they become numb," he said. "If you talk for half an hour, they get tired of talking. If you pull out a prop, it's different."

Gallagher isn't just a comedian, either. Before he started doing stand-up, he earned a degree in chemical engineering from the University of South Florida. He still spends time tinkering with new inventions and trying to get financial backing for them. He said he developed a hat that blind people can wear that tells them where doors and windows are by sending a slight electric shock to their forehead.

"I think I'm a visionary," he said. "I need the world to pay attention."

if you go

Gallagher performs an all-ages show at 7 tonight at Sonar, 407 E. Saratoga St. Tickets are $25. Call 410-783-7888 or go to sonarbaltimore.com.

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