You likely know Billy Gardell as the Mike to Melissa McCarthy's Molly on the aptly titled CBS sitcom Mike & Molly. The very successful show is returning for its fifth season on December 8.
But before Gardell found fame on the small screen, he paid his dues traveling the country performing stand-up. Comedy is a passion which continues to fuel Gardell as he's just written and soon performing a new hour of material. He'll be taking his act to the Palm Beach Improv on December 30.
On a break from shooting Mike & Molly, Gardell phoned the New Times to discuss the differences between acting and stand-up, who inspired him to chase down a comedy career, and to talk a little football.
New Times: What can we expect at your stand up show down here next month?
Billy Gardell: Hopefully, stuff that makes you laugh. I do a working class show about trying to be a good dad and a good husband and being a lunatic in my youth.
Do you see a little bit of that quality in your son?
It's like someone put him in a coffee filter because I think he's a good version of me. I think that has a lot to do with my wife, to be honest with you.
Do you need to have a certain sense of mischief to be a comic?
I think comics have a good way of deflating stress with comedy, anger with comedy and that's the way I go for. But yeah, I think there's a little bit of "What if we did this?" in every comic. What if we kicked that over? What would happen?
So what's the funniest thing you've kicked over?
I don't know man. I've been doing this for 25 years. I try to talk about trying to be a grown up, that's the hardest thing for me. At some point, you have to be the responsible example for your kid, which is tough when you know you were nuts as a kid. So you hear yourself saying something your father would. You hear yourself giving advice maybe you wouldn't listen to.
When did you first decide to be a comic?
I wanted to do comedy when I was nine years old. I asked my grandmother if she thought I could do it. She said, "If you work hard enough you can do whatever you want, but you got to work." I trusted her more than anyone else on the planet, so I never looked back.
Were you ever worried your Grandmother led you astray?
Not her! (laughing). But I think that's part of the journey. If it all worked out real quick, then I don't think anyone would do it.
Can you tell us anything about this season of Mike & Molly?
Season five started shooting 11 weeks ago. It's a killer show. There's a magic that happened our first season. Our chemistry has always been great, but they say the fifth season you get put in that fraternity with a lot of great shows. It kind of reinvigorates your excitement to work with each other.
We're in some really fun zone right now. The episodes are coming together really, really well. As far as storylines go, I wish I could give some stuff away, but they only give us one week at a time to keep us organic. So we don't know a whole lot about where the show is going to go.
Do you find acting to be more difficult than stand-up?
Stand-up is about convincing the crowd you're right. Acting is about letting the crowd see you think.
Acting is a place of vulnerability where they get inside and see what you're thinking and feeling. Stand-up is more of a battle, acting is more of an invitation, but sometimes they cross with each other which can be really cool.
If you do more acting in your stand-up, it makes the bit more lively and comfortable. If you do the stand-up in your acting when you hit that punchline you hit it harder then if you had only an acting background.
You're a big Pittsburgh Steelers fan. Is there much humor to be found rooting for a team that's won so many Super Bowls?
This is how spoiled we are, we get upset when we don't win the right way. Winning by only three against Tennessee is not my idea of a good week.
Billy Gardell. 7:30 p.m., December 30, at the Palm Beach Improv, 550 S Rosemary Ave., Suite 250, West Palm Beach. Tickets are $25 plus fees and a two drink minimum. Visit palmbeachimprov.com.