In Advance of This Weekend's Shows at Hilarities, Comedian Billy Gardell Talks About His Midwestern Sense of Humor

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click to enlarge In Advance of This Weekend's Shows at Hilarities, Comedian Billy Gardell Talks About His Midwestern Sense of Humor
Courtesy of Eve Sadoff
For six long years, comedian and actor Billy Gardell portrayed Office Mike Biggs on the hit sitcom Mike & Molly. Since that show ended in 2016, Gardell has continued to act, and he’s returned to doing standup too.

The portly comic performs on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Hilarities.

In this recent phone interview, he talks about his career and his roots in Pittsburgh (he remains a Steelers fan even though he moved away from Pittsburgh years ago). Gardell also said he was looking forward to playing at the venue and referred to owner Nick Kostis as a “gentleman and a sweetheart.”

"I’m a blue collar kid and my humor does well throughout the Midwest,” Gardell said in reference to the Cleveland show.

What was it like to move from Pittsburgh to Florida when you were a kid?
It was very traumatic. Anytime your parents get divorced and you get ripped out of the neighborhood that you love and have to go to a new place at a very young age, it has an effect on you.

How did you sense of humor develop?
My sense of humor is very Pittsburgh and very Midwest. We have a knack at making light of a heavy situation. I saw that as my defense mechanism as I was going through life.

What was your first standup gig like?
I think I was 17 and the first open mic I performed at was on Dec. 28, 1987. I did really, really good, and I don’t even know what I said. But I performed for five minutes and it went great, and then I sucked for two years after that, but it was enough to keep me going.

You opened for George Carlin. What was that like?
I got to open one show because his opening act got food poisoning. It was a great honor to work in front of that man. I was very young, and he was very kind to me, and I was in awe of everything he did.

How’d you wind up getting into acting?
I always loved acting. I was a big Jackie Gleason fan as a kid because my dad loved The Honeymooners. Standup has been my first love, but as I started to watch the sitcoms and see comics on the show, I dreamt like every other comic that it would be great to have a hit sitcom on the air for a bunch of years. And then it happened. It only took me 25 years to become an overnight success.

What was your first appearance on TV?
My first appearance was in 2002, I think it was. I had a guest spot on The King of Queens. I was a part of the old high school football team. [Actor] Kevin James was nice enough to have me on the show.

How’d you wind up on Mike & Molly?
I had only got a couple of auditions, and I was only going to stay in L.A. for one more audition. I was going to move back to Pittsburgh and the last audition was Mike & Molly.

Did you immediately know you got the role?
No, no, no. It was a long process. They wanted me to test for the network and [creator] Chuck Lorre wanted to see me. He gave me the confidence for that part.

What was it like to work with Melissa McCarthy?
She’s wonderful. She’s like my little sister. I love her. The whole cast is like a family. We didn’t have any crazy people. We still talk to each other, and we still root for each other. It was the best experience of my business life.

What's it been like to be on Young Sheldon?
A lot of fun. Chuck Lorre is like the Norman Lear of this generation. He knows how to do great television. It has the camaraderie that Mike & Molly had.

What will the show in Cleveland be like?
I’ve been working on a new hour. My stuff centers on being married for eight years and trying not to be a hypocrite as I find my way through this digital world we live in. I just try to find common thread.

Do you include any Cleveland Browns jokes in the set?
I don’t. I miss the Browns. I grew up in the Browns/Steelers hate each other days. I was at the last Browns and Steelers game before Art Modell moved them in the middle of the night. A lot of the Steelers fans that night wore orange armbands. I don’t hate the Browns anymore. I hate Baltimore a little more. I think all the Browns and Steelers fans do.

About The Author

Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected]
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