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Seven innings with Gallagher

Hanging with the watermelon man



As the rest of us age, somehow Gallagher has stayed the same.

In fact, from his air-conditioned box overlooking Riley Park, the only discernible change in the man who laid claim to prop comedy with roaring success in the 1980s is that his trademark wild brown hair has gone a rather surfer-like blondish-white with age. After all, Gallagher is now 64 years old. In fact, in his black slacks, red T-shirt, and brown loafers with no socks, he looks more whacky liberal-arts professor than world-famous comedian. But he’s come to the RiverDogs game to promote his weekend shows at Club H2O in North Charleston.

I’d come to do a brief write-up on his activities during the game (first pitch, seventh-inning stretch, and obligatory watermelon smashing), but found myself thrust into the evening’s events with a front-row seat — a development which I was still wrapping my head around even as we shook hands and I trailed behind him to the radio booth where play-by-play announcer Danny Reed was waiting to put Gallagher on the air. It turns out that he isn’t the easiest interview subject. Sure, you can ask him a question, but though he is oddly matter-of-fact, what he says may not be at all related to the question he’s been asked. It’s a character trait that leaves those around him feeling slightly at odds with themselves. Like when Reed asks, “Gallagher, what do you like most about baseball?”

Gallagher contemplates the field. “You know, I wish the grass was more real. This looks like a putting green... or a carpet or something,” he replies. After a few slightly awkward exchanges he seems to get into the swing of things, though not before suggesting, after a particularly inept display of fielding:

“Maybe they’d be better off riding around on those two-wheeled stand-up cars the cops are always driving.”

Surely the man’s heard of Segways?

After all, it would seem that since the 1980s Gallagher has been perpetually touring. And next he’ll be traveling to Hilton Head before moving on to West Virginia, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Kansas, Louisiana, Texas, California, Arizona... And that only takes him through the month of September.

Back in his air-conditioned guest box, the door opens every few minutes and some fans are ushered in to take pictures. I notice Gallagher has been trying to eat about four ounces of baked beans and macaroni and cheese for about 45 minutes, but he doesn’t seem to mind.

“So when will you head home, you know, get to take a break?” I ask.

“I don’t like being home.” His brown eyes regard me sternly over his lowered magnifying glasses. It occurs to me that if he weren’t Gallagher, I’d be slightly intimidated.

“Why don’t you like being home?” I press.

“It’s death.” He answers. “You go from the bed to the TV to the ice-box, back to the bed. That’s it.”

I watch as he stands for more pictures, noticing what a master of fan-o-graphic lighting he is, as he instructs them on where best to take the photo. He’s patient, funny, and in his element. It’s easy to see; they are what keep him traveling.

“Be careful with that phone,” he warns a woman. “You’ve got to protect that tiny little chip that we trust our lives to now.” Any attempt at existentialism is lost on her, though, and after looking at him blankly she quips, “So... when are you gonna smash some things?”

Gallagher said he’d prefer me to come to his H2O show to watch the audience’s reactions and interview him after.

“There’s plenty of seats,” he said.

“Oh, I’m sure that’s not the case,” I say.

"No, it’s true. The club seats 250 and we’ve only sold 100 chairs per night.”

I tell him I’ll do my best and head back to my seat to watch him sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh inning stretch.

The game was sparsely attended that night. Nonetheless, people gathered after the final out along the third-base line with eager anticipation. Gallagher appeared mallet in hand, and smashed a bunch of watermelons all over us, to uproarious applause.

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