Thursday, July 8, 2010

Gallagher lost it

I found this link through Andrew Sullivan, detailing how Gallagher ('80s comic, smashed fruit on stage with a sledgehammer) has become not only a show-biz has-been (no surprise), but also a right-wing hatemonger of alarming proportions. It's sad, but more than that it's horrifying.

Was Gallagher like that back in the day? I remember quite vividly watching a number of his cable specials. (The author has it wrong, by the way: Comedy Central wasn't around in the '80s. Gallagher became known to kids like us through Showtime specials.) (We didn't have Showtime. I watched them at friends' houses.) But I don't remember the jokes: I just remember the watermelon-smashing.

And unlike the author of the otherwise-excellent article, I'm not too hip to admit that the watermelon-smashing was brilliant comedy. It had on me something of the same impact (pun...not exactly intended, but foreseen) that my elders describe Lenny Bruce as having on them. In the violent yet harmless act of smashing fruit on stage (best when done under strobe lights), Gallagher revealed something about our attraction to, even need for, mindless destruction; he said something about destruction as a form of creativity; and he provided a deeply cathartic and gloriously transgressive moment for those of us who, for better or worse, were growing up in an increasingly repressive (of everything except greed) America.

It was perhaps inevitable that it devolved into schtick. Lenny Bruce would have, too, had he lived. And it was inevitable that the idea would be stolen - in the interview Gallagher gripes about Letterman stealing it, but Letterman only steals from the best: it was a compliment. (My favorite iteration of it on Letterman was dropping a bathtub full of chocolate pudding from the roof of the Ed Sullivan Theatre, then following it with bowling balls.)

So Gallagher had his moment. What I don't remember (and I'm not sure I have the heart to search youtube enough to find out) is: was he this much of a racist, homophobic asshole back then, too?

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