That Time We Hung Out With Gallagher and It Was Weirdly Wonderful

Fair warning: This blog post doesn’t contain much breaking Las Vegas news or snark. This one’s more for us, a chance to share a personal memory of Gallagher, who died Nov. 11, 2022 at the age of 76.

It’s also an excuse to share this portrait we took of Gallagher in July of 2014. It’s one of our all-time favorite portraits, and we think it captures a side of Gallagher people rarely got a chance to see.

His stage persona was one facet of the gem that was Gallagher. Photo by Scott Roeben.

We met Gallagher at Golden Nugget, downtown. He was performing a string of shows billed as his “farewell tour.”

We were starstruck.

In his heyday, Gallagher was everywhere. While Gallagher was mononymous, his first name was Leo.

Gallagher is probably best known for wielding his Sledge-O-Matic, a giant mallet he used to smash things like watermelons, but that’s not what we’ll remember him for.

During the ’80s and ’90s, Gallagher was the world’s largest consumer of edible fruit.

Our fondest memory of Gallagher is the time we hung out for hours at Golden Nugget. It remains unclear why we hung out, but after he sized us up (see photo at top), Gallagher apparently decided he wanted to share some things with us. And, so, he did.

He pulled out an iPad and spent the next couple of hours reading poetry and stories and random comedy ideas, drafts of bits, insights, observations, commentary. It felt like Gallagher opened up the top of his head and let us peer inside.

Some of the material was hysterical, some if it seemed like it was still incubating, like looking at Thomas Edison’s notebook where he scribbled something about a carbonized thread filament or whatever.

A good deal of it was completely unrelated to comedy. It was like Gallagher’s brain was going non-stop, about a million different things, and he had to get the ideas down or they’d be pushed aside by the next idea. It was pure, unfiltered creativity.

Q. Was Gallagher unique? A. How many comedy shows have a splash zone?

Our conversation was riveting, and consisted of a lot of questions on our part, as well as his. Gallagher questioned everything, and his insatiable, inquisitive mind is probably what made him such a great comedian. That, and fearlessness.

While he might have been known for smashing watermelons, that was mostly marketing. Gallagher was so much more.

Gallagher’s act always felt raw and original, but he was sometimes dismissed as a “prop comic,” a term of derision in the comedy community. Just ask Carrot Top, who, like Gallagher, is sometimes belittled by other, less successful comedians. Success, as they say, is the best revenge. Carrot Top currently has enough money to buy Wyoming.

It was clear from what Gallagher shared with us that day, he was a prolific thinker and writer, and far more complex than the lovable goofball he portrayed onstage.

His ideas covered the breadth of what it is to be human. It was part philosophy, part storyteller, part mad word scientist.

He was also a father. He leaves behind a daughter, Aimee, and a son, Barnaby. Barnaby actually played the sitar in Gallagher’s show at Golden Nugget. It was random, but sweet.

Gallagher’s son sort of went a different direction.

The passing of Gallagher feels like the end of an era.

The world of comedy has fallen victim to political correctness and a good portion of the public seem to have lost their sense of humor somewhere along the way.

Comedians now seem to spend more time apologizing for their jokes than performing them.

Gallagher never apologized for anything. Not all of his humor was woke, but Gallagher was always Gallagher. (His brother Ron Gallagher tried to be Gallagher, too, but there was only one Gallagher.)

For 30 years, Gallagher toured and appeared on TV, bringing his demented and inspired comedy to millions.

One of Gallagher’s best qualities: He was frank.

We’d always enjoyed Gallagher’s comedy, but gained a new appreciation of Gallagher the person during our short time together. He had no filter. He had no shame. He had no trepidation.

When we heard about the passing of Gallagher, we sort of felt like a part of America died along with him. It’s the proverbial end of an era.

We’ve never known a world without Gallagher. He made the world a sillier place, and the world needs silliness more than ever.

We’re so thankful for all the opportunities Las Vegas has given us, and the chance to meet and hang out with Gallagher a few hours is high on the list of things we’re thankful for.

R.I.P., you amazing, ridiculous, undauntable, hilarious goofball.