Sunday, September 30, 2018

Maybe my favorite bad review

I've posted this before, years ago, but it's one of my all-time favorites.  Do you remember a comedian named Gallagher?   His basic act was smashing watermelons.  When he performed in Cerritos, California in 1999 the LA Times reviewed it.   The review was so hilarious and scathing I had to keep it.  And share it.   If you can imagine the thinking that could have produced such a staggeringly ill-conceived racist show, you laugh twice as hard.

And so, as a public service to anyone even thinking of attending an upcoming Gallagher show if he's still touring, here is this LA Times review.


Comedy: Promoted for Latinos, Gallagher's pseudo-Spanish show is a litany of degrading stereotypes and insults.By ALISA VALDES-RODRIGUEZ, Times Staff Writer

Hmm. How to put this delicately? We'll simplify: Mime-like, stringy-haired man in black hat smashes food with mallet on stage for living. Man, who no espeakey no Spanish, hears Spanish, thinks Spanish good, Spanish muy muy dinero. Man spends one month learning important Spanish words such as cerveza, caca and culo (butt). Man invents Spanish words, such as "sperm-o" and "embarazamante." Man decides this is enough Spanish to put on show for Latinos. Man smashes pinatas, wears giant sombrero and shakes keg-sized maracas. Man mocks Jews and gays and women and constipated old people. Man thinks he is muy funny comedian-o.

Man hopes all Spanish-speakers agree.
But wait. There's more. Mucho more.

Man rents hall in Cerritos. Man advertises "Gallagher en espanol: La Fiesta Grande" on Spanish radio. Man hopes thousands will come. Two hundred come, many with children and babies and old (possibly constipated) people. Man babbles for three hours Thursday night in "language" neither English nor Spanish. Language heretofore known as Gallagher-bonics. Next day, executive director of Cerritos Center for Performing Arts issues statement stressing that "Gallagher show was a rental event and not produced or presented by the Cerritos Center."

Man hires dance troupe to open show. Man performing for mostly Mexican American audience. Dance troupe, called Salsa Kids, performs Puerto Rican dance style. Male dancers wear guayaveras, the four-pocket shirts worn by old Cuban men in Miami. Mexican American audience appears unimpressed. Stone faces say: Ugh, bad medicine. "Is this like ballroom?" a woman in the audience asks. "My sister, she's taking that ballroom dancing."

Show goes on.

First nine rows of audience are in white plastic chairs. People in white plastic chairs equipped with clear plastic bag to wear over clothes because later mayonnaise and refried beans will spew over them. Signs warn: Cuidado, Piso Resbaloso. Wet floor. Man shoots water on audience from giant penguin after salsa dancers leave stage.

Other man named Vic Dunlop, a comedian hired to help because he supposedly speaks Espanol, takes stage. Dunlop wears Mexican blanket, sombrero and glasses with eyes painted on them. Makes jokes about black people and blind people in bad Spanish. Says show is sponsored by Culo Cola, the soda with the taste of an expletive. In audience, Debra Garcia, 50, is bored and thinks the show immature and plans to leave early.

Man appears with penguin and yells, "Como? Este hombre no esta en mi show. Vamanos."

Second assistant "comedian" who actually does speak Spanish comes on stage. Her name is Dyana Ortelli and she is Mexican American and makes a living mocking Jennifer Lopez's bottom, stereotyping Chicanos, and wearing bad wig and no pants. Ortelli helps man throw chocolate at crowd. Man says: "Quien no tengo chocolate?" Translation: Who I don't have chocolate? No one sure what he is saying.

Man introduces Chupacabras. Chupacabras is goat-sucking monster seen in Puerto Rico three years ago. Man in ape suit pretends to be goat-sucking monster. Man forces child onto stage with monster. Man asks: "Quien tiene mas pelo de Chupacabra?" Translation: Who has more hair of Chupacabras? Child makes disgusted face, jumps off stage. Ortelli looks sad. Man babbles about goat-sucker: "Es muy fuerze, es muy fuerza." Translation: Is very strength. No one laughs. Man frustrated. Tries to say "espectaculo," which means "show," but says "specta-culo," which sort of means butt-gazer.

Man calls for rock band. Fulano de Tal, from Miami, plays well. Man wears giant parachute dress and dances. Man spray-paints a lie on the back wall: Yo No Soy Gringo. Man says in Spanish that he is a cowboy. Man says he is newborn Mexican and caresses his naked hairy belly.

Man tells joke about bear and rabbit pooping.

Man gathers audience volunteers for Mexican hat dance. Says "Tengo un muchacha" over and over. No one laughs. Man says "Culo, culito" until people laugh. Man says "moco" for extra humor. Man is tired of trying. Man says in English "I need a beer." Man curses under breath off mike, but audience hears anyway.

Man begins dumping buckets of food onto plates. Man stops trying to speak Spanish. Man gives up and speaks English. Man says: "We were expecting a big crowd tonight and we're going to do a show for a big crowd anyway" because the crowd is small and shrinking. Man is booed again. Man yells: "It's the Fourth of July weekend, you don't got no place to go so just shut up." Man hits Pop Tarts with tennis racquet. Man says "Un muchacho quiero comer," which means "I want to eat a boy" and the boys look scared.

Many people who paid between $21.50 and $26.50 per ticket walk out as man flashes white underpants and yells culo, culo, culo and cerveza. Man angry Latinos have no sense of humor. Man throws egg and marshmallows at old woman and baby as they waddle out of theater. Man calls old woman vulgar name in English. Man spits beer on children. Some in audience too polite to leave. Others impolite enough to boo. One courageous enough to hurl a lunchbox-sized chunk of watermelon at man's head.

Man smashes food with 16-pound mallet. Man says, inexplicably, "Todo el mouthwash el hits me en el crotch-o." Man sings "La Cucaracha."

Man smashes more food. Show over. Man bows. Man slips on floor.


Peter said...

After reading that gem, I'm going to look on youtube to see if anyone filmed that disaster. It sounds like one of those "so bad it's good" things.

E. Yarber said...

Gallagher recorded an album that at one time was seemingly in every comedy record bin in America. I'll admit I had some mild curiosity seeing it so often, wondering if the watermelons were smashed in true stereo.

Eventually I had my chance to hear for myself when I found a copy for a buck at a National Council of Jewish Women outlet, but instead got the disc for teaching your parrot how to speak. I don't have a parrot and it doesn't work very well for cats, but I still don't regret my choice.

James Van Hise said...

This was apparently when Gallagher's brother had started doing his act, which is when the racist stuff made it into the act. Nothing like that was in the act when Gallagher did his series of specials on Showtime back around 1990. He and his brother apparently later had a falling out and sued each other over who could do the act.

Cathy said...

Ken, you said you are tired of Ricky Gervais and his hosting of Golden Globes back in 2012.

In a recent interview Ricky says he would like to return and many in the comments section said they would love to see him. Even on social media they keep saying that. What about you? 6 years since that post, do you still hate him?

Paul Duca said...

That makes mother liked him, and she wouldn't watch anyone racist.

VP81955 said...

OT, I watched the first ep of "Last Man Standing" 2.0 on Fox Friday night (it did very well in the ratings, according to the entertainment press) and in the opening, your old pal Nancy Travis cracked a joke about the perils of the TV business. While it was obviously a reference to "LMS" on ABC, it could also be a reference to your sitcom with her, "Almost Perfect."

Steve Bailey said...

Billy Crystal, Rob Reiner, and Albert Brooks have been close friends in childhood. Crystal once said that the three of them proposed creating the National Comedy Club. Brooks said, "Of course, you know what the first order of business will have to be, don't you? We'll need to kill Gallagher."

Janet Ybarra said...

The review was so much more funny than the show itself. No wonder Gallagher has fallen off the face of the Earth.

Sundaynista said...

This description of a 2013 interview should answer the question of whether he’s still racist or not (I’m guessing he is):

Ricky said...

I always get the feeling that some of the people that you comment about in your blog, do reply in the comments section but under a different name. It's the comments which are sometimes angry, directly addressing the issue or plain personal attack on you.

I had said the same thing about Megan, but that person refuted it.

Even in the Ricky Gervais post that Cathy refers to in the above comment, some of the comments seem to be from Ricky himself, is what I feel. Like a nasty reference to "Mannequin" movie.

Toby the Wonder Horse said...

Gallagher is a national treasure. And, like all treasure, he should be locked in a chest and dropped to the bottom of the nearest ocean.

Anonymous said...

For what it is worth the original Gallagher suffered a heart attack about 5 or 6 years ago just before going on stage and as far as I know has been "retired" since then. That being said, his Showtime comedy specials from 1979 on through the 80s are gems and available in a Watermelon shaped box set that I highly recommend. Some of the humor may sound crass to ears of today's snowflakes, but none of it is racist rantings...and as with the works of Mark Twain should be seen in the context of the times. I say this as an rabid liberal, working in the resistance inside the government.

Buttermilk Sky said...

How did the Trump Inauguration Greatest Gala Show of All Time Committee overlook Gallagher? Whichever Gallagher it was.

It just occurred to me that between Gallagher and Punkin' Chunkin,' countries that don't have enough to eat must yearn for our annihilation.

Pat Reeder said...

I was going to mention what James Van Hise said above. There was a period when Gallagher's brother, who looks just like him, was going around performing under his name, and this sounds like one of his terrible shows. I saw the real Gallagher years ago during my first visit to Vegas, and I remember the show being quite funny, and its theme was actually pro-intelligence. It ended with the fruit-smashing routine that he had become as stuck with as Pete Townshend was with smashing guitars; but most of it was built on the premise that Vegas likes people to turn off their brains and throw away their money, and he had them captured in a room for one hour to try to convince them to think. He did a lot of jokes about how stupid gambling was, which I thought took some serious guts when you're working for a Vegas casino.

thirteen said...

You made me look everything up, Ken. Comedian Vic Dunlop died in 2011 at the age of 62 from complications of diabetes. Dyana Ortelli is 57 now and has been working steadily as an actress. The band Fulano de Tal broke up in 2000 after four or five years of touring and recording. Gallagher is 72 now. His most recent appearance seems to have been in a GEICO commercial in 2012, the year he had a second heart attack.

Wikipedia says Marc Maron asked Gallagher about this show and more during a 2011 podcast, and Gallagher wound up walking out. He was the first guest ever to do so in (at that point) 145 episodes. BTW the podcast confirms that it was the "real" Gallagher (first name Leo) who headed the show and not his younger brother Ron, as some here thought was possible.

Janet Ybarra said...

And Wikipedia specifically mentions this Cerritos performance in it's article about Gallagher.

Andy Rose said...

I have read a number of interviews over the years with various TV show hosts who have said (sometimes with almost no prompting) that their worst ever guest was Gallagher. I remember in particular the anodyne Nashville-based hosts Crook & Chase getting worked up talking about how he had mistreated their staff. If you can piss them off, you must be a piece of work.

Somebody asked Joel Hodgson of Mystery Science Theater 3000 -- who started out as a prop comedian himself -- why MST3K made so many cutting cracks about Gallagher. Joel said that once when they were playing at the same venue, he caught Gallagher rifling through his property without permission, apparently concerned that Joel might have stolen some gag from his act. Which is especially ridiculous if you've ever seen Joel's act.

DBenson said...

Stock lines for comics and others who bomb:
-- "I'm a victim of the politically correct fun police."
-- "Elitist critics hate clean, positive entertainment."
-- "I refused to pander to the industry bigwigs."
-- "I'm not about money. I'm playing to the smart ones."
-- "The big shots torpedoed my career. They're jealous and scared."
-- "The public is a mob of drooling idiots."
Extra points for using more than one, especially if they conflict.


Legendary pan review from Robert Benchley: "Guido Nazzo is Nazzo Guido."

That line became a pre-internet meme. Benchley, feeling guilty, helped Nazzo get some other roles. Despite a name change, he was still Nazzo Guido.

Barry Traylor said...

If even if this jerk wasn't a racist pig I could never get what was supposed to be funny about his act(?).

Chicoruiz said...

On the subject of bad reviews...It’s long out of print, but there’s an entertaining book of bad reviews called No Turn Unstoned, compiled by, of all people, my former adolescent crush Diana Rigg.

Anonymous said...

The greatest restaurant review ever published:

Steve said...

I don't know if this particular show was a Leo Gallagher or his brother Ron but I'm pretty sure that the real Gallagher did let homophobic and racist jokes slide into his act-- although not in his TV specials and not when he is in a city like Portland where he knows they won't play. He talks about it quite a bit in this interview with Marc Maron (which he eventually walks out on). Long story short, he doesn't believe that what he says on stage really has the power to hurt anyone so as long as he can get a laugh he doesn't worry about who a joke is directed at.

badhatharry said...

I'm late here, but I worked on a Gallagher show back in like 09. It was hands down, the single worst show I have ever worked on.

His manager insisted that he have a wireless mic. When Gallagher showed up, he saw the wireless, acted like I was stupid, and told me he was going to break that if he used it. That wasn't the last time he acted like he was the only intelligent person in the room.

Before his show, he goes to the store and buys all the things he's going to smash. He came in with some frisbees that you could record your voice onto and then throw at someone and they play back the recording. He thought that was high comedy.

Show starts. I can honestly say Schindler's List was funnier than his act. There was one joke in Schindler's List. There were no jokes in his act. Just two hours of him complaining about homosexuals, African Americans, Mexican Americans, The People Who Are Afraid To Put Him On Television Because He Speaks The Truth, and his audience. He berated the audience if they didn't react the way he expected.

At the end of the show, we start trying to clean up. There's bits of food everywhere, and we're doing our best not to slip in it. Everything is covered in something. We're going through and throwing everything out. He comes out from his dressing room and wants to know where his bag of chips have gone. We threw them out, along with a two dollar can opener. Again, we're tossing everything because it's all covered in whatever condiments he smashed that night. He SCREAMS at the entire building (it's just staff at this point) because do we all think he has the money to buy a new can opener in each city? He pulls the can opener and the (opened) bag of chips out of the trash. He eats some of the chips. Management comes down and gives him his check and asks him to leave. He refuses until he gets a video of his performance. We've agreed to provide that prior to the show.

I ran the sound lighting and video department, so I grab the DVD of the show and meet him in the lobby. One of the guys in my department is the person who threw away his chips and opener. In the lobby, he's excited about the DVDs. He says to me, "Did you see how the watermelons looked on stage with that lighting? They positively glowed!"

"Yeah, that's great. Listen, you know your can opener and chips? I threw them out."

"Eh, whatever. Those watermelons looked amazing! And did you see them catch the light when I smashed them?"

"Yup. Listen. You just screamed at a building full of people and I'm telling you I'm the one who did it. You want to scream at me, you scream at me."

"What? No, it's fine. I got that stuff back."

"OK. Here are your DVDs. You have your check, Get the fuck out."

The next morning, I walked into my boss' office and told him, "If you ever book that guy again, I will not work that show."

He has not worked at that venue since. And his management kept calling and trying to re-book him. My boss finally told them to never call again.