<b>SCRABBLE BABBLE:</b> From "caziques" to "muzjiks," weird words can make you a winner in the Public Library's Scrabble fundraiser September 19.
Sue De Lapa

VLAD THE CRACKUP: What’s so funny about Russian boss Vlad (The Impaler) Putin invading the Ukraine?

I don’t know, but one of the stand-up comics at the recent Comedy Festival here was a skinny little Ukrainian who told jokes about it. Something about if Putin could invade a country where only half the people spoke the native language, someone could do the same to Los Angeles.

He was followed by a black guy from L.A. who trashed McDonald’s (“McAttitude”), an Aussie who ridiculed our obsession with cell phones, and a redneck amazed that Subway sandwich shops proliferate like rabbits, a thousand springing up after each rain.

Barney Brantingham

Humor, of course, reminds us of our national obsessions and bad habits and keeps us aware of our craziness and reality-warping marketing. “We don’t have Outback restaurants,” the Aussie pointed out. “Only you Americans.”

We’re afraid to leave the house if our cell phones only have a 50 percent charge, risking possible disaster if we’re caught (horrors!) without a lifeline to the world, he told the Lobero crowd. We freeze if we’re somewhere and don’t have enough cell juice to snap a photo.

A constant theme of the night dealt with clueless, bumbling men’s ways of getting along with wives and girlfriends. A brash comic who looked about 18 didn’t see anything wrong with buying condoms while his first date was standing by or ordering “ticket for one” when they went to the movies.

When a girlfriend confessed that she wasn’t feeling “pretty,” instead of reassuring her, he suggested that tomorrow she’d probably look better. So why did she blow up at him, he wondered?

This was just one night of a week’s worth of laughs, snorts, chuckles, gasps, and moans during the procession of stand-up comics, by no means as raunchy as this kind of humor can get.

Which brings us to Leo Gallagher, not present, but the once-beloved watermelon-smashing king of prop comedy. At age 68, he’s descended into the seamy depths of extreme racist, sexophobic, homophobic jokes, according to his critics, and is on a “farewell” tour.

He sued his brother Ron over appearances that led some patrons to believe they were seeing the “real” Gallagher. Gallagher also wanted to ban Ron from using his Sledge-O-Matic mallet act, smashing melons and other fruit.

If you ever saw the real Gallagher, you wanted to sit close to the stage, under a plastic sheet, when he smashed fruit over the front rows. (I know, kindergarten revisited.) He professed to be highly insulted that Comedy Central rated him the 100th best stand-up comic of all time. “How could I be behind people I never heard of?”

Gallagher has now had at least three heart attacks, his mustache is gray, and according to Wikipedia, he reportedly lost his $3 million fortune in stock market speculations.

A BOOKSTORE JAMMED? Right, it was 1st Thursday, and Granada Books was crowded. Ivor Davis was signing The Beatles and Me on Tour, his account of tagging along on their 1964 U.S. tour; Dee Elias was there with her Confessions of a Beatlemaniac! tale of meeting the lads in their hotel room; and Carpinteria dad Jeremy Gold was signing his whodunit Death at Carp High.

As the marathon Beatles tour was ending, the boys had no idea of the sensation they were creating, Ivor said. Ringo Starr said he planned to open a beauty salon, Ivor recalled. Paul McCartney said he expected to write songs for others. Who knew?

SKRABBLED: Having grown up on the semi-literate South Side of Chicago, I was surprised to be invited to take part in Santa Barbara Public Library’s Scrabble for Literacy tournament on September 19, 7-9 p.m. The idea is to raise money for the library’s adult literacy program. I haven’t played since Eisenhower was president, and as a spear-carrier for The Santa Barbara Independent, I fear embarrassing myself and the paper. So I tuned up against daughter Wendy and granddaughter Lexi ​— ​and lost badly. It seems Scrabble fanatics have discovered hundreds or thousands of weird words you’ve never heard of. Lexi slapped down “xi.” I challenged, but she whipped out a Scrabble computer site and proved me wrong. Upshot: Everything’s a word.


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