Bucket lists and Beyoncé: Gallagher & Crew on Tour

Missing Event Data

Comics are often the saddest clowns when the lights are down, but an afternoon chat with Gallagher proves that even when he’s not on stage, the lights are always bright. His involuntary response to stimulus, whether visual, physical, or conversational, produces some hilarious, thoughtful, and unexpected results. It’s an abbreviated master class in blurred lines, bucket lists, and Beyoncé. Synonymous with chaotic prop comedy, the 68-year-old comic born Leo Gallagher made a name for himself in the 80’s as the guy with the striped shirt and wild hair who smashed watermelons on stage with the Sledge-O-Matic. He was the human manifestation of a roomful of meth-addicted five year-olds with access to tools and a surplus of fruit.

The Joke’s On You Comedy Tour adds new fun to his standard one-man show July 9th-11th at the Jacksonville Comedy Club. Veteran comics Artie Fletcher and Bob Nelson bring a new dimension of comedy to the tour, and Gallagher promises the trifecta will deliver more than “three people interrupting each other on stage.” Gallagher says, “We’ve all had long careers and we all just decided to put our lot together and see what electricity and new fun happens when three people are in the building. We’re not going to play tag team where one does this for a while and then the other one. What is that? There are three spirits in the building, and we’re going to be flitting all around, in the audience, everywhere. It’s a party in the theater with three nuts.”

YOUR_WEEK_5-1_WEDNESDAY_GALLAGHER_t240Gallagher’s wheels spin in constant motion and new ideas are always percolating. When he’s not perfecting his comedy routine, he’s writing a poem about ducks for the First Lady (appropriately titled The Duck Poem), an open letter from a penguin to President Obama, ticking off items on his bucket list for making the world a better place, and developing screenplays for Jennifer Lopez and Beyoncé (items one and two on the bucket list, check and check). So far, neither J.Lo or Queen B have committed to the projects, but once they are made aware of their existence, Gallagher is sure they’ll sign on.

The J.Lo project involves a Puerto Rican beauty pageant queen and plans for various merchandising options. The Beyoncé idea is a tad more complex. It centers around the first person credited as an author, who was also the daughter of the King of Acadia. Beyoncé’s princess is abandoned by her father in enemy territory, and she documents her fears in written form. A parallel story takes place in New York between two singing sisters, mirroring the events the princess suffered traveling to hell and trading her soul for her safe return. “There is no possibility of something ever happening if you don’t have ideas,” he says. “If I can just get a pitch over the plate, I’m going to hit a homerun.”

Before launching his own comedy career, Gallagher earned a degree in chemical engineering. He left science behind for a five-year stint as road manager with comedian Jim Stafford. He knew Stafford’s routine on stage and off. He knew when to dim the lights, where to pause for dramatic effect, and just how far the comedy could go for the biggest laughs. “I was a chemist, and I wanted to be a scientist. I thought whatever I did, I would do well. But when I watched this guy perform, I knew what I could do,” Gallagher says. “It was all so Bohemian to hit the road like a circus and write songs and jokes.”

As he developed his routine, Gallagher introduced props like the couch-shaped trampoline and the smashing of all manners of things into his repertoire. His fans loved it, but he encountered a harsh critic in the one man who could help make or break a comic’s career. Johnny Carson famously refused to allow him to perform on The Tonight Show because of his dislike of prop comedy. “At the time, you really had to be on The Tonight Show and Johnny didn’t want me to make a mess in the studio. I got on the show doing The Tonight Show Home Game, and I found a way for Johnny to have to be there and see me do it because they wanted to see his expression. I forced him to have to be there and watch the routine I came up with in my little house in Burbank.”

Along the way, Gallagher also learned some valuable lessons in what not to do. When selecting cacti to smash on stage, it’s important to take note of the surrounding inventory and the similarities between a cactus flower and a hot pepper before rendering yourself blind in front of an audience. “The cactus is wonderful because it has a high surface tension and is very snotty so it hangs in the air different than just a general spray of mashed potatoes and rice. And so I hit that not knowing I had the pepper and it got in my eye, so that was one of the dumbest things ever,” he says.

Another lesson involved a kettle drum, a bag of oranges, and a room full of college students. The kids were supposed to toss the oranges so they bounced off the kettle drum but instead, Gallagher tells us, “This kid cold cocks me right in the jaw with one and displaced my jaw at the beginning of a show. I could feel that my jaw was misaligned and I was thinking ‘God, I’ve got to talk all night.”

“It wasn’t easy out there, but I’ve had four attacks and I just don’t care about much anymore,” he says. “I love the magic time when I’m on stage and I’m feeding the crowd a good time. There is an energy level and I love taking that energy for two hours and having a good time in the space that we’re in.” Catch Gallagher’s The Joke’s On You Comedy Tour along with Artie Fletcher and Bob Nelson at the Jacksonville Comedy Club, July 9th through 11th. Order tickets online at JacksonvilleComedyClub.com. The first 50 to the Thursday night opening show will receive movie passes to the preview of Amy Schuller’s new comedy film Trainwreck.

Date/Time: July 9-11 8:04pm

Tickets: $20

Contact: www.jacksonvillecomedy.com or 646-4277

About Liza Mitchell