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November 19, 1998

Comedian sets dubious record in Southeast
Gallagher sets mark for Largest Watermelon Smashed by a Comedian; 3 die

THE MIDDLE OF TENNESSEE — Ragingly popular performance comedian Gallagher entered the record books and the Peona County Jail here on Thursday. His achievement: smashing an 850-pound watermelon and killing three spectators.

"Honestly, I thought it would kill more than that," said one shocked onlooker. "I saw that thing sittin’ up there and thought, ‘My God, that thing could kill more than three people.’"gallagher.jpg (23836 bytes)

The comedian, who for years has set his sights on the previous record for Largest Watermelon Smashed by a Comedian, only finally decided to attempt it on the morning of the show.

"He came into my hotel room at about 9 a.m.," said manager Larry Dirker. "He said ‘tonight’s the night.’ I immediately knew what he meant, so we called Fargo."

Fargo is where the melon, genetically produced by the comedian at some cost to himself, was being stored in a refrigerated airplane hangar in anticipation of the attempt.

Wanting to actually smash the melon himself, Gallagher hired a team of architects to design a complicated set of pulleys that allowed the mustachioed genius to hang suspended near the roof of the Civic Center and trigger an enormous anvil that he rode down onto the waiting melon, much like Slim Pickens at the climax of "Dr. Strangelove."

The ensuing explosion propelled seeds at approximately 250 miles per hour into the foreheads of Gallagher’s adoring, unsuspecting fans. While most victims were treated at local hospitals and released, one is unlikely to see again, and three others were unable to recover.

Viewer reaction was as scattered as the infamous melon. According to therapists, many spectators were so enthralled by the spectacle — and its earth-shattering humor — that they blocked out the horror of the night.

This effect can best be seen in Paul Rober, a farmer from nearby The Right Side of Tennessee.

"He smashed it real good!" Rober joyously proclaimed.

Still others chose to see the silver lining in the event, despite knowing full well the human toll.

"The fact is, visionaries take people with them," said spectator Gail Adams. "It’s a shame those folks had to die, but a great man fulfilled his dream tonight."

Gallagher now sits alone in the Guinness book, atop the list of Largest Watermelon Smashed by a Comedian. The previous record was 92 pounds, by Russian funnyman Kelva Olgnet.

The record for Largest Watermelon Smashed Overall still belongs to pilot David Wicker, who accidentally crash-landed on a 1,200-pound melon outside of Iowa City that was intended for entry at the state fair.

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