Gallagher was on top of the world in the 1980s as the ultimate prop comic, smashing watermelons and other produce with a weird mix of glee and ire. He had 14 Showtime comedy specials back when that was novel.
But over the years, his star faded. He claimed to be broke in an interview in 2012, though he gave a lot of his money away to his kids. He also had multiple heart attacks that year but survived.
At age 69, he’s still touring and whacking fruit. Currently, he has teamed up with fellow comics Bob Nelson and Artie Fletcher on a multicity tour, landing at the Variety Playhouse on Friday.
And rather than have the trio tag team on stage, they riff off one another.
“We’re like the new Marx Brothers,” Gallagher said in a recent phone interview. “We can go in any direction. We’re working in the moment.”
He said Nelson is very physical, like Harpo. He compared himself to Groucho. As for Fletcher? “He’s either Chico or Zeppo,” Gallagher said. “Artie plays my business manager. Bob’s inexplicable. It’s a party.”
And yes, near the end, he will whip out the legendary wooden mallet he lovingly calls the “Sledg-O-Matic.” “We’ll be smacking in Atlanta!” he said. “I bring people up on stage to do it. I teach them how to do it. We live in an interactive age.”
His confidence in his own comedic skills has not diminished. “Nobody has the gonads to do this,” he said. “I’m old. It doesn’t matter! I’ve been a living legend. I don’t have to prove anything to anybody.”
Twice, he said, he’s had heart attacks on stage. He doesn’t mind if he keels over performing. “That’s why I tell people to come to the show,” Gallagher said, half seriously. “I’m alive. Catch me now!”
He admits he has had to cut back on foods he loves like corned beef hash and fried shrimp. “I used to order room service and try all the desserts,” he said. “If I ordered the apple pie and it sucked, I moved on to the chocolate cake. When you’re rich, bring it all!”
Gallagher has been a pot smoker for decades. He’s glad it has become more acceptable but won’t risk carrying any on a plane. So here’s his method to get a free toke: An hour before the show, he’ll watch cars pulling into the parking lot early. If someone parks and doesn’t leave the car immediately, he assumes they may actually be lighting up. So he’ll come up and introduce himself, spark up a conversation and share a smoke in the vehicle.
“I’m a lot more fun stoned,” he said.
In the 1990s, Gallagher allowed his brother Ron to imitate his act as Gallagher Two but became offended when Ron began stealing his identity. He sued him and won but has never forgiven his brother. And even if Ron called now and apologized, Gallagher would not accept it.
“He’s an idiot,” Gallagher said. “I’m not going to talk to him. I have millions of fans, people who love me all around the world. I don’t need family!”
Some journalists who have seen his show in recent years said he is not politically correct, insulting gays, Asians, Mexicans and Arabs, to name a few. He is thrilled to see Donald Trump rise to the top of the GOP presidential polls.
“He’s giving me a lot of cover,” Gallagher said with a laugh. “I used to get in trouble for what I say. He’s worse! He’s terrible. I don’t say anything compared to Donald Trump!”
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.