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Billy Gardell embraces lovable cop role on hit CBS sitcom ‘Mike & Molly’

billy-gardell

As the plus-sized dude, Billy Gardell has often been cast as the best friend, the neighbor, the criminal. His resume features supporting and guest characters on shows such as “Yes, Dear,” “My Name is Earl” and “The Practice.”

But last year, the 300-pound Pittsburgh native landed a lead role on CBS sitcom”Mike & Molly,” placed in the cushy post-”Two and a Half Men” spot on Mondays.

“We hit the lottery!” said Gardell in a recent phone interview. “I’m really proud of the show. People identify with it because not everybody is perfect. It’s a combination of ‘Roseanne’ and ‘The Honeymooners.’ ”

Gardell plays Chicago cop Mike who meets teacher Molly (Melissa McCarthy) at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting. They begin to date. While the sitcom is lighthearted at its core, it’s not family friendly. Besides requisite fat jokes, the characters often opine about sexual and gastronomical issues.

“Those are two corn dogs fighting for kennel space,” Mike told Molly after his ample stomach growls during a trip to the opera.

Gardell’s manager Chris DiPetta calls his client a “20-year overnight success.”

“When you’re second or third banana, you don’t get the attention,” said DiPetta, who runs the Punchline Comedy Club in Sandy Springs, where Gardell has done stand-up comedy for two decades. “Being No. 1 on a show is a whole different story. He gets his own parking spot right next to the sound stage.”

Fans of the show appreciate Mike’s basic sweetness.

“I think Billy was a little unsure of himself the first couple of episodes,” said Lara Thompson, a 39-year-old Tucker event and meeting planner. ” ‘I’m a funny guy, but can I be a serious guy, too?’ I think he’s grown into his character. He’s the lovable teddy-bear guy.”

Gardell lived in Marietta during his early stand-up days in the mid-1990s.

“I really enjoyed Georgia,” Gardell said. “Lots of cookouts. I liked Piedmont Park. I loved Bridgetown Cafe. It was killer!”

He met his wife Patty in Atlanta, where he ran into her three times in one day. He first saw her at her employee, a bank. Then he spied her at the Punchline where he performed. Later that night across the way at jazz joint Cafe 290, he saw her again and bought her a drink.

“I’m bringing you this drink,” he recalls telling her. “Hopefully, that makes me look cuter.”

“I’m going to need another one!” she cracked.

Gardell hasn’t dropped stand up. He has a Comedy Central special Feb. 5 and is set to perform at the Punchline May 5 and 6.

Here’s a sample of his stand-up:

For now, he’s just loving the regular paycheck, which has enabled him to get out of debt. And he’s ready to play Mike for years. “If they want to shoot me from a cannon,” he said, “I’ll do it.”

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By Rodney Ho, rho@ajc.com, AJCRadioTV blog

2 comments Add your comment

Jim H.

January 31st, 2011
3:00 pm

Its a pretty funny show (especially Molly’s “stoner” sister)…… Just hope the same fate doesn’t await this guy that happened to lots of the other fat comedians (John Candy, Chris Farley, Belushi, etc.)……being that big doesn’t bode well for having a long healthy life.

Kar

February 1st, 2011
10:16 am

I like the main characters but do they really need the number of sex, pot and fart jokes? Why not more of the police partner and the guy at the diner? They’re funny unlike the female characters who always go straight for the lowest common denominator?

Also, Swoosie Kurtz is an award winning stage actress who showed time and time again that she can hold an hour long drama together. Instead she gets jokes about things falling off the back of a truck?