Not many comedians reach household name status. Gallagher, by his account, has logged over 4,000 shows and over a dozen comedy TV specials, and has only been slightly slowed down by five heart attacks. His signature black hair has turned gray, but the Sledge-O-Matic is still at his side.
On Friday, Dec. 6, he will be performing at the Village Door Music Hall in Destin.
“I’ve got cartoon projects on there. I’ve got three reality shows, and a sitcom, and this movie,” Gallagher says after a discussion on a script rooted in 23rd Century B.C. about the Sumerian priestess Enheduanna. “And that’s why I’m trying to stop performing live, and paying attention to try to get these projects produced out here in Hollywood.”
Gallagher’s creative endeavors don’t end there. He has been working on a concept since 2005 to elevate slot machines to digital ideals. “I say that kids who have been raised on video games are not going to put up with stupid software. And so, I took the pay line and moved it to the bottom of the screen. And then, things can fall down, or rockets, parachute jumpers, infantry people can land.” He’s held a patent on the design since 2012.
But not every endeavor is remembered fondly. He says one of the first and worst jobs he ever had was at a J.C. Penney. “Putting price labels on garments,” he says. “I was so slow, they made fun of me. They’d leave me hundreds on a table and, you know, tell me, ‘You’ve got several hours now.’ And, oh, geez. I wouldn’t, I couldn’t do it. I remember that only lasted a couple of weeks.”
Now Gallagher seems to create his own amusement. “I like to audition, what’s the word I’m looking for? Interview for a job. I sometimes do that for the fun of it. I just try to get a job, and then I don’t go there.”
A common thread during our chat is how technology is evolving everything, from movies to malls—the full swing of the digital age transforming landscapes. Gallagher thinks a similar evolution is in store for stand-up comics.
“Well, I think that for comedy to compete, it has to be programmed. You have to ask the audience what they would like to hear the comedian talk about, because up until now they’re just allowing the comedian… And a lot of these are stupid idiots with very little experience in the world and shouldn’t be on the microphone.
“It should be tailor-made, it should be custom. You know? You should ask the audience, because audiences are different. And nights are different. You’re not going to talk about the same thing on Saturday night that you talked about on Wednesday.”
In Gallagher’s view, comedy is going to become more competitive. “The guys that want to get up there and just talk about what interests them are going to go by the wayside. And nobody’s going to want to hire them.
“They all look like a big wrinkle,” Gallagher says of modern comics. “They just pick their clothes out of the dirty basket. Because they seemed okay, for some reason.”
By inference, that means Gallagher’s loud shirts and newsboy cap were all deliberate choices. Even the black and white striped tee that he often wore early in his career was deliberate. “At the time, every comedian who appeared on The Tonight Show had to have a jacket and a tie on, like Johnny (Carson). Well, I don’t think that’s approachable. I want to be a comedian of the kids. And so, I wanted to look less business-like. I did it on purpose. I just got the right stripes.
Not every industry change appeals to Gallagher. “I refuse to do that thing where they can pay and be backstage. I go out in the lobby, and I meet everybody coming in. And I try to imagine their life, and what I mean, and how I fit into this group. Because they’re all different groups.
“There can be a family group that’s happy, and jolly. And then there can be lovers that are fighting, and then there can be some kids that didn’t want to come at all. And the parents brought them, and they hate me before they even know me.”
After the amusing ping-ponging between topics, Gallagher turns a bit somber when talking about fans and the years on the road. “I do remember coming off stage, and saying to myself, ‘I never stand there and enjoy the applause.’ I always get off, because then I have to convince them I’m not coming back.
“And so, I never get to just wallow in it, and I’ve thought about it many times. I said, ‘I had a wonderful career, and I ignored it.’ All I did was go out there and say the right jokes in the right order and work the crowd real good, and then get off.’”
Keep up with Gallagher and his current tour at www.GallagherSmash.com.