Gallagher was one of the most popular and recognizable American comedians during the early 1980s. He produced at least one special a year from 1981 to 1987, all of which were carried by Showtime cable network and then re-broadcast numerous times throughout the year, especially on the Comedy Central channel. As of 2008, he has done 16 specials.
His signature sketch is the “Sledge-O-Matic,” a large wooden mallet that Gallagher uses to smash a variety of objects, including computer keyboards, containers of cottage cheese, cartons of chocolate milk, tubes of toothpaste, pound cake (“I guess it does”), Big Macs, grape soda,fried chicken, and, most famously, watermelons. Given the messy nature of this portion of his act, it is usually saved for the finale of his shows. Show attendees in the first two or three rows are usually provided with plastic sheeting for protection, and many fans bring their own additional protection (raincoats, umbrellas, and so on). Gallagher performs other prop-food gags including a demonstration of constipation using a jar of Jif peanut butter and an explanation of the difference between men and women using a sausage wrapped in a banana peel.
In addition to the Sledge-O-Matic, Gallagher’s act features a variety of wacky props,including a large trampoline designed to look like a couch, an adult sized Big Wheel, and a cap with a fringe of hair attached to the back. A foam-rubber steamroller (designed for crushing children) sits in his house, built for a Showtime special that never happened.
While the Sledge-O-Matic act works as an example of physical prop comedy, Gallagher frequently uses this portion of his act as a criticism of American consumer culture. The act itself (and even its name) is a parody of ads for the Ronco Veg-O-Matic, a kitchen gadget that was heavily advertised on the American television airwaves during non-primetime hours from the mid-1960s through the 1970s. (See Wikiquotes for the traditional introduction to the Sledge-O-Matic sequence.)
Gallagher often uses wordplay in his act, skewering the English language and its eccentricities. He mentions in one routine that words like “b-o-m-b”, “t-o-m-b” and “c-o-m-b” are not pronounced similarly, which he calls “d-u-m-b”.
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