Last night I went to see Gallagher at the Gothic Theater here in Denver Colorado. I’ll admit, last night, I was worried. You see, I had posted on Facebook that I was finally getting to see him. And I had some friends trying to talk me out of going based on what they had heard.
(Looks like I missed Joan Osborne too.)
The first time I heard about Gallagher, I was around age 10. A 4thish grader in California, I knew about him because my parents had gone to one of his shows in San Jose, CA. Much to my surprise, we saw that same show on cable, more commonly known as “Gallagher The Bookkeeper.” I got hooked.
I loved the way he played with words and the English language. The fruit smashing, with some witty commentary about how unwitty society could be, was also hilarious. Heck I learned a lot. “Stuck in the Sixties” taught me about the environment and “The Maddest” taught me about how silly life is. I ended up seeing about ten of his specials. By the time I was an adult and well into my own little hippie movement, I saw him on “We Need a Hero”. He had shaved his hair bald, just gone through a divorce, and his hippieishness came across to me as hateful towards women. I didn’t think about him much anymore after that. Over the course of another decade, from my mid-20s on, I’d read about a performance he’d do in Aurora, IL but conflicting desires and a bare bank account put me in the “I’d like to pay my respects but… nah.”
I finally decided this month to see him. Out of curiosity, out of nostalgia and out of respect, just as my favorite baseball players growing up became tarnished from steroids, I found in my later years I can still appreciate the enjoyment they gave me… even if it was an illusion.
Looked like no one was there in line, an ominous start.
Looked like nothing was on stage besides a King Soopers run with an extra helping of Glad trash bags and an odd, out of place, pot of flowers. Where were all his inventions and props? No mechanical baby or rainbow blimp? No giant couch?
And I’d heard stories that he wasn’t all that funny or all that nice anymore.
Is this still the same guy? Is he just faking it? Just hanging around before the performance because he has nothing to do besides pimp his old act?
There are some moments in life you never expect growing up. I never expected that, shortly after the above picture, I would leave my seat to get a pre-show drink, and there, across the bar, was Gallagher munching on some fruit. I’ll admit I was tempted to talk to him, to buy him a drink too. But it was within half an hour of him going on, and after about a half an hour of him taking pictures with fans, I didn’t want to disturb him. Still, I felt disturbed. Eerie. Of all the things I was expecting for tonight, I wasn’t expecting that! Dumbfounded, at a loss for thought and words, I went back to my seat.
I sat in the fifth row, the four front rows covered in plastic. Figured I was safe. Next to me were two teenagers who hadn’t heard of him and just came to “do something tonight”. “What’s he like?” Droid + YouTube Clip = Quick Gallagher Education. I also warned them I’d heard he became hateful, spiteful and not all that funny.
The theater filled up (though not sold out). People all around me, and two to three rows behind me came in wearing plastic. I still had on my work clothes.
Oh well, maybe I’ll get lucky.
And sure enough, I did.
Gallagher was fan-fucking-tastic.
All the jokes seemed fresh, had that same sly silly wit I remembered from when I was younger. Yeah, some things might be a bit touchy, but nowhere near the level of South Park or George Carlin (two other favorite comedy past-times of mine). And I found I didn’t care that he wasn’t swearing every third word like most “modern’ comedy. I didn’t care that his hair was gray and I stopped worrying about whether he would glare or grumble or spout out insults like I was afraid he might. I had fun, and by the end of the night, I didn’t want it to end. Neither did the teenagers next to me, rolling with laughter between ducks behind their plastic. Oh yeah, I got messed up good. So good, in fact, that a helping of Gallagher’s Smash-o-Matic smudged up my camera despite my best efforts.
I felt bad that I wasn’t sure if I wanted to take a picture with him. I felt bad I hadn’t offered a drink. I looked at the clock and realized he had been on stage for two and a half hours, much longer than most comics. That he’d let others on stage to take part in smashing stuff. And I loved the way the stage looked afterwards, _real_, silly fun, with that odd, out of place flowerpot still there serenely as an encore.
I felt that, yes, Gallagher had taught me something new once again.