“Are we doing this?” – Gallagher abandons the WTF podcast with Marc Maron
As the comedy podcast expands its presence in our cultural Duma, one has emerged as the Supreme Soviet. While I remember his appearances on the Comedy Channel/Comedy Central from the late-‘80s through the election of 2004, and loved his Morning Sedition program on Air America, Maron has definitely found his true calling as the host of the WTF podcast. As one of the growing collective of Whatthefcukniks, I’ve had the chance to eavesdrop on Maron’s conversations with a whole slew of comedians and other hustlers, most notably Patton Oswalt, Aziz Ansari, Maria Bamford, Margaret Cho, David Cross, and Dave Attell. A couple of weeks ago, when I saw the name “Gallagher” on the episode title, I thought Maron was trying to mess with us. But then I realized that Marc is not that kind of dude. As one whose written about both of these guys, I had to examine this interaction. And what an interaction it was…
For those of you familiar with the WTF podcast, he begins by recounting a seemingly-random series of events, eventually leading to a discussion of the reasons for the appearance of that episode’s particular guest. In this case, Gallagher’s people asked Marc of he could appear within one of his stand-up performances. According to Maron, this “would not be good for anybody”, and the idea was rejected. So instead, he decided to have the King of Attempted Comedy on the pod – hell, the guy was a household name for a few decades, and had numerous one-hour specials on HBO, Showtime, Jim Bakker’s PTL, Jewelry Television, the ValuJet Network, you name it.
If you’ve avoided the human hand-grenade of Gallagher, let me bring you up to speed on his latest career drama. Several years ago, he sold his “act” to his brother, whose deceptively-titled “Gallagher Too” deemed insufficiently distinctive for his audience, which thought they were seeing the Real Gallagher. After a series of lawsuits, and other non-sledgehammer-themed interventions, a settlement was reached, and the world was spared from the continued pain of Gallagher-on-Gallagher crime (hell, we get enough of that with Oasis). Ever the opportunist, the “Real” Gallagher has amped up his produce-isle of racist/homophobic/anti-intellectual “jokes” to exploit the MENSA candidates in the Tea Party set. A few recent profiles led Maron to follow through with the whole interview idea – and wow, are we glad he did.
My first reaction to the “debacle” was one of catharsis – I felt like this is as close as I’ll get to hearing Matt Taibbi grill Dick Cheney about his war profiteering. It begins innocuous enough, with their initial introduction transforming into a minor caper, where Gallagher displays how to skeech coffee from hotel lobby events. I actually found it hilarious that someone who has likely encountered millions and millions of dollars in their career would be such a skinflint.
After their arrival in Maron’s hotel room, Marc offers him some of the foodstuffs that his barter system has netted him. As Gallagher chomps away on whatever vittle he can toss in his maw, you can almost feel the cookie crumbles flying into your headphones. An early statement, “You’re a household name, had 14 specials…” is intruded by Gallagher’s whining “Then why don’t I have a talk show, then? Jay Leno, David Letterman, they don’t have an act! Why do they get to be on TV?”
(Seriously, people, if you aren’t already listening to WTF, I ask that you at least check out this episode. I will try to recount as much of the podcast as possible without alerting the WTF legal team. Mr. Maron, please forgive me – this is solely out of adulation!)
Later on, Gallagher recounts how he offended Kenny Rogers’s mother with a 4th-grade-level “joke” aimed at the Arab community. Maron just moves on – but fear not, he’s just pacing himself. He sought to let Gallagher explain his place in comedy’s history, and perhaps drop a few funny stories about his cohorts at places like the Comedy Store in Los Angeles. But no matter what Maron said, the conversation degenerated into more of the Suspendered-One’s jealous whining about Leno and Letterman. Hopefully Metallagher’s view towards the ‘llagher will continue to match their policy on Metallica, where only the classic material is allowed, because a modern set would be nothing outside of complaints about other comedians, the way ‘these kids’ wear their pants, Pokemon cards, the liberals, today’s introspective comedians and their lack of ‘lesbian jokes’, comedians that drink water onstage, and whatever else has changed since he banked his last million. While Gallagher had a few interesting insights (an affirmation on the Oswalt-detailed phenomenon of “fast-forwarders”, which he admits to being – “I found that if you appear on talk shows, and act like you are famous, people will think you are famous” – or about Kenny Rogers “having to bring his ‘mommy’ to the show”, or the comedian strike in the 1970s), they are overwhelmed by his completely-archaic worldview and constant sour-grapes attitude. Maybe it’s the cookiemouth, but he also sounds drunk.
After a brief back-and-forth about one’s agency in our career trajectory, Maron inquires:
When were you going to fit interviews in-between dancing around and smashing shit?
Hey, I’ve seen Jay Leno. “Oh, you used to model before you got into acting.” I’ve practiced that (adopts mocking tone) “Yew yewsed ta mawdel before ya got into acting’”. WHYYY CAN’T I HAVE THE TONIGHT SHOW?
Following about fifteen minutes of being pleasant, Maron knew he had to bring it back to a difficult place. He confronted G about the racist and homophobic content of his material, and how he solicits laughs at the expense of the unfortunate ones that have heard that joke all their life. So how does Gallagher defend himself?
IT’S A NIIIIGHTCLUB!
Maron asks him, “You don’t think you’re feeding the fire of intolerance? Where does [your anger] come from?”
If people didn’t laugh, I WOULDN’T SAY IT!
When asked about his politics (“I DON’T CARE!”, replies G), Maron adds:
So you are just playing towards your audience?
I just tell them things that they will LAUGH AT!
While, as one of those unfortunate enough to see his opening set for Metallagher, while sitting through some obnoxious anti-Obama “riddles” that sounded like Haley Barbour at a “Save the ‘Ole Miss Mascot'” rally, I can confidently declare that this next statement is an outright lie…:
HEY, I DON’T DO ANY BLACK JOKES!
… I would wager that this next statement is true:
Because there’s no Black person in my audience. NOT A ONE!
Gee, why would that be?
One more excuse for his antics:
I’M A COMEDIAN! [I entertain people – (aw hell, even his inferred comments are being screamed, so let me correct that) – I ENTERTAIN PEOPLE] WHO ARE DRINKING!
After a quick to-and-fro about the recent elections, Maron’s opinion on the reason for their outcome is met with Gallagher saying “Boo boo boo, New York and LA will NEVER understand the rest of the country. I bet you NEVER play in the Midwest.” Maron’s retort “Sure I do”, is met with the Gallagherian “…well, you better have some lesbian jokes!”
But then, a line is crossed.
IT’S A NIGHTCLUB! IT’S NOT THEERRAPY!
Wrooooong podcast for that, Galla. The gloves, as they say, are off.
Gallagher may be a chemist, but he was not prepared for the science coming straight at him:
By releasing the aggression of narrow-minded people as some sort of entertainment, how is that not just reaffirming fcuking prejudice and intolerance?
You’re an angry man.
I’m not angry!
Come on, you’re a guy who smashes things.
I told you, all the jokes I’m telling, I heard on the street!
Most comedians are terrible! They should listen to me!”
Eventually, Gallagher’s had enough, and walks away (not after filling his pockets with Maron’s hotel buffet, we can presume). While it’s no shock that he fled the interview, it is surprising that someone with his level of career success and popularity (not to mention wealth, unless, you know, Madoff) could be so bitter and regretful about the achievements of others.
Gallagher justifies the perspective of his material by claiming that he’s only repeating jokes, not consciously crafting the stuff. For Gallagher, that may be the biggest joke of them all.