Leo Gallagher , who will be 70 years old next year, has spent more than half of his life as a successful comedian. He’s appeared on the Tonight Show several times and has performed 14 comedy specials for Showtime. Comedy Central listed him as one of the best stand-up comedians of all time. He is famous for his rude and crude humor and for smashing watermelons.
Gallagher will entertain longtime fans and make new ones on Oct. 4 at the Carlos Alvarez Studio Theater at the Tobin Center of the Performing Arts. Artie Fletcher (humorist, musician, and talk show host) and Bob Nelson (stand-up comedian and actor) also will appear.
I caught up with Gallagher recently on his California phone line.
Don Mathis: I love the eccentricities of the English language. In your opinion, what is funnier: prop comedy or word play?
Leo Gallagher: I need jokes about sex. What did the sign say on the whorehouse door? Closed, beat it. How do you make pickle bread? Dildo. This is the job in a nightclub with drinkers. As they drink, people get dumber. Intelligence is not a requirement for a comic.
DM: I saw that you received a minor in English Literature from the University of South Florida. I can see how that can help in your skits to mock the English language. But how has your Chemical Engineering degree helped you?
LG: What I did for four years, five decades ago, is hardly relevant. I’m much more knowledgeable in sub-atomic particle physics – and we knew very little about this in 1969.
DM: In 2003, you ran for Governor of California. Any political plans in your future?
LG: I ran for governor because I had two ideas to make the world a better place and thought the campaign would publicize them (but) nobody cared to use helicopters to clear the freeways of fender benders or to sing the national anthem in Spanish before games.
DM: Any chance you will be busting up some political correctness with the “Sledge-O-Matic” in San Antonio?
LG: Times change and what words are “allowed” in polite company change. Like “ass.” When I started in the early ’70s you had to say “tush,” “boobies,” or “pass gas.” Comics are supposed to “push the envelope” of propriety. Otherwise where’s the surprise? There has to be a punch in a punch line, especially in Texas.
DM: The Stock Market pounded you a few years back. How’s your financial health?
LG: My lifestyle involves long hours on airplanes and in motels … I could be wealthy again overnight if Google would buy my patent for online slot playing. Search uspto.gov granted patent number 7,972,210 – Leo Gallagher improved slot machine. If Amazon killed book stores, online gaming will ruin the casino business.
DM: What can San Antonio expect at the Tobin?
LG: By adding two other comics to the stage (Artie Fletcher and Bob Nelson), this show can move faster. We’re experimenting with show business. We work ad lib together. We know each other’s jokes and help to set them up. Comedy is wild. So is the West. You don’t do your New York show in Dallas. Or either of them in Seattle.
Travel has taught me that America is very diverse. I need three hours of material to do a one hour show and the smartest jokes are hardly ever used except on TV or in interviews. I do a two to three hour show. I need to be rude, loud, scatological, and rowdy. Playgrounds are a better training for comedy than a classroom.
Many people online say this show is the best time they ever had. How can you miss that? See me while you can. That’s the thing about living legends, they’re still alive!
Catch this living legend live. Visit the Tobin’s website for tickets.
*Top image: Leo Gallagher as Donald Trump: “I’m his accomplice… protégé…assistant… confidant… apprentice. I don’t handle any of the complaints. What do I look like… an idiot?” Photo courtesy of Leo Gallagher.