Gaffes and gags with the 'world famous' Gallagher

The comedic has-been offended his Fulton bowling alley audience more than he entertained it.

Lakeview Lanes is like any other bowling alley in Central New York. It’s a large facility with more than 20 lanes hosting men’s, women’s and mixed leagues. It’s offset from the road along Route 3 in Fulton, N.Y., just 10 minutes or so past the heart of town.  Lining the top of the building, a giant red sign sits atop an even larger bowling pin. You can’t miss it.

On a recent Sunday night, the lot is filled but it’s not because of the 6 p.m. mixed league. There are people tucked in a banquet room set off from the bar inside, right around 20 tables seating seven people each. It’s the kind of room that’s hosted its share of birthday parties, Eagle Scout banquets and year-end league parties. Tonight, however, a small stage no wider than a sofa sits at the front of the room and a single spotlight shines on the lone microphone.

“I had a ton of calls this week,” said Lakeview Lanes owner Michael Trynski. “‘Is that the real Gallagher?’ I said the world famous, and you can bet it’ll be the only time you can see him in Fulton.”  

The real Gallagher, one night only in Fulton

Anyone under 30 may be asking “who?,” but Gallagher is worthy of the “world famous” billing. His heyday came in the late 70s and early 80s as the modern grandfather of prop comedy.  The iconic image of a comedian with a sledgehammer demolishing a watermelon – that’s him. He repeatedly guest-starred on Johnny Carson’s The Tonight Show and from 1981 to 1987 he had an hour-long special on Showtime. Comedy Central rightfully includes him in the Top 100 Comedians of All-Time.

Yet on this Sunday night, he took his preshow cigarette outside of a Fulton bowling alley among the regulars smoking in between games and still wearing bowling gloves on one hand. Could you imagine Jerry Seinfeld or Dane Cook doing that, even 20 years from now?

But this is where Gallagher belongs now. His current tour schedule boasts a few large stops (Los Angeles, New York) but they’re the exceptions. His most recent weekend swing is more indicative of where he stands in today’s comedy landscape – Stroudsburg, Pa., Woonsocket, R.I. and Fulton.  It’s no fault of his own work ethic, as he still performs more than 100 shows a year. It’s just that the 64-year-old’s act is a lot like him nowadays – predictable, dated and not necessarily welcome everywhere.

Gallagher’s 90-minute set featured no Sledge-O-Matic, and the only props on hand were a toilet-seat cover and a can of creamy Jiff Peanut Butter.  Both were used for literal potty humor.  Long gone are the superlatives used to describe his old act – innovative, playful, clever. His set now was filled with jokes about God, sex, the difference between men and women and lowbrow classics like bodily functions (“When I go to a buffet, it’s not what’s good, it’s can I poop that?”) and politics (“Raise a glass to Bill Clinton who made oral sex not count as sex. I know there are plenty of old men in this room who will certainly count it though.”).  The older crowd was happy to indulge the comedian in some of it.

Not only were some of his topics tired, but others were uncomfortable and offensive. At one point Gallagher embarked on a tirade where he told jokes and asked “is that too far?” to gauge if he crossed the line.  He asked if black women threw Scrabble tiles on the ground to name their children, why all Arabs named their kids Mohammed and if French words frustrated him because they were too “faggy.” It wasn’t a surprise when he shared stories of how his relationships with the other comics of his generation deteriorated and how he can’t get a gig on Leno or Letterman. 

He talked about how a “slip of a tongue” during one TV appearance in the 1980s got him into hot water with the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, and networks became afraid to book him for appearances.

“If I do a shitty show here, who’s going to know? Do you even have TV in Fulton?” He said.

The last laugh

Fulton, to its credit, had a few vocal objections when things got dicey. One woman was removed for consistent heckling – nothing very protesting, some in the crowd even thought she was a planted set device – but another gentleman spoke up after a deaf joke. The crowd was silent and Gallagher was forced to quickly shift topics.

The strangest and saddest thing about the night was that despite such lows, Gallagher did show flashes of the smart comedy that propelled his career in the first place. His basic observations showed someone who was capable of taking a common experience and making a clever comment about it: On exit signs, “They’re red because that’s the color that stands out best from flames, right?” On bathroom architecture, “The sink is higher than the toilet for a reason; no one turns on the light when they have to go in the middle of the night.”

Gallagher was also quick to condemn and dismiss audience members who took things too far. At one point, a man shouted “being gay is wrong.” Without hesitation Gallagher put his hands up to quiet things and said, “Well, I don’t agree with that…but can we at least agree my jokes are funny?”

All in attendance wouldn’t agree with that sentiment, but most would agree that this was probably their only chance to see the world-famous Gallagher in Fulton. Despite the interesting evening, there’s at least one audience member who is fine with that.

The hypocrisy of right-wing entertainers.

The Gallaghers, the Dennis Millers, the Bill O'Reillys, the Limbaughs, and the Becks...they're hypocrites and they know it. They don't give a damn about how things are. They're stinking rich and living a privileged life. They know being an intolerant, offensive, right-wing loud mouth gives them a career and that Beverly Hills mansion, and nice cars. Their careers are built on the most liberal medium: television. They're cashing in on it and have suckered everyone conservative and liberals alike.

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