Sunday, September 22, 2019

A Stand-Up Guy

Any would-be stand up comedian would do well to get to the B Street Theater and watch Jack Gallagher’s “A Stand Up Guy.”

Gallagher, the three-time Emmy award winner, host of various TV shows, and Tonight Show with Johnny Carson comic (his favorite gig) has appeared in several movies and has lived his life’s dream since he was 10 years of age, for the past 41 years.

Now in a show written by Gallagher and son playwright/actor Declan Gallagher (who appears briefly in an hilarious piece about the grammatical uses of the f-word) the stand up comedian and story teller explains how he did it...and how this Fall River, Massachusetts native ended up making Sacramento his home and becoming one of its biggest entertainment assets.

Put very briefly, it’s by always doing the very best he could no matter what the job.  It also helps if you have the kind of supportive wife Gallagher has in Jean Ellen, to whom he has been married since 1980.

But the path to B Street (for which he has now written 8 different shows) was a rocky one, to put it mildly.  While Gallagher is a comedian, he is more a story teller than a joke teller.  He can tell a story that will keep you mesmerized (check his You Tube video “Letters to Declan,” the first of his one-man shows), but as popular as he may have been, the fact that he didn’t tell zippy jokes that brought audience applause every minute kept him off Carson’s “Tonight Show” through four auditions, for example.

His career has been a series of ups and downs, sometimes leaving him without an income entirely.  But he never gave up, and Jean Ellen never gave up believing in him.  Soon the ups were higher and the lows not quite as low.

The script of this show was shaped by the calendars he kept throughout his career (“in case I’m ever nominated to the Supreme Court,” he quips – his one political joke).  There were times when he was performing a show in the early afternoon in one state, and another at night in a different one...for weeks at a time.

But the work paid off and the gigs started to get more serious.  He nearly had his own sitcom, until the network pulled it for reasons which had nothing to do with Gallagher, but merely left him without work again.

In 1983, he was offered a job in Sacramento.  He was promised that he was going to be a Big Star on KCRA.  He and Jean weren’t sure they wanted to move to Sacramento, but at the time they were living in Los Angeles and hated it.  Sacramento, with its trees and older houses, reminded them of Massachusetts, so they gave it a try.

The show only lasted 9 months before it was canceled, but by this time, Gallagher was less frantic about his career and happy in Sacramento. He had appeared in concert with Dolly Parton, The Four Tops and Tony Bennett, had a recurring role on the HBO series “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and appeared in a couple of movies, including “Heartbreak Ridge,” with Clint Eastwood.  He began writing shows for B Street.

Now he’s decided it is time to tell his story, from his first joke (on the golf course with his father when he was 10) through his 15 years of averaging 35 weeks a year on the road, to moving to television, to Sacramento, where he is now, happily living with his family and trying to figure out ways to stay off the road.

I’ve been a fan of Jack Gallagher ever since I saw him do Crystal ice cream commercials a long time ago.  I’ve seen several of his one-man shows.  Each one is quite different from the last, but I’ve never left the theater without smiling and raving about how wonderful it was.

“A Stand Up Guy” joins the list of other exceptional Jack Gallagher performances I have seen.  And his brief salute to the old B Street theater brought laughter and applause.

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