Billy Gardell, long before he was a star on the CBS sitcom “Mike & Molly,” was a typical working stand-up comic, going from town to town every weekend, telling jokes. This has been his passion for 25 years.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, he met many other comics along the way, a few whom he truly admired. Now that he’s gotten his big TV break, enabling him to play theaters for up to 4,000 fans, he wants to honor three of those working comics: Ken Rogerson, Ben Creed and Tim Wilson.
They will all be at the Punchline Wednesday, June 13 for two shows. He will host and throw in a few jokes himself.
Since it’s a taping for a Showtime special later this year, tickets are only $10! Bargain central!
“I’m grateful I’m able to do this this long,” Gardell said in a phone interview this morning. “I get to work with guys that really influenced me when I was younger. All the comics are polished veterans. They’re all phenomenal at what they do.”
Creed: “He’s been a New York City staple for a long time. An absolute cutting edge funny cat with a Tom Waits tinge in his voice. He was the main guy in my life that showed me how to do comedy. He taught me the most.”
Wilson: “I consider him the Mark Twain of the South.” (Wilson used to live in Atlanta years ago. I agree with Billy.)
Rogerson: “He’s from Boston. When I watched him for the first time, I thought, ‘I’m never going to get as many laughs. He’s just amazing!’ Again, he’s rooted and just funny.”
Gardell has close ties to the Punchline. His manager Chris DiPetta helped start the club in 1982 and is still part owner. Gardell met his wife there.
“I didn’t want this in a theater. I wanted it to look like every week on the road. I wanted that feeling of the audience being right there with no separation of the theater wall.”
Gardell has been performing at the Punchline for more than 20 of its 30 years. “It’s a constant,” he said. “There’s something comforting about it. It was the first good club I got into.”
Naturally, he is thrilled to be a co-star in a hit sicom. “What a blessing!” he said. “It’s truly a dream come true.”
Melissa McCarthy, his co-star, is shooting a film in Atlanta so he hopes she can swing by. “I always joke that I’m now married on TV and in real life, I’m never right!”
He raved about CBS management and the writers on “Mike & Molly.” “It harkens to the ‘Honeymooners.’ That movie ‘Marty’ with Ernest Borgnine. There’s a tinge of ‘Roseanne’ in there. But we still have our own voice. Creator Mark Roberts is a playwright from Chicago. We get to be not only funny but have tender moments as well.”
Shooting for season three doesn’t begin until August but now that courtship (season one), engagement and wedding (season two) are over with, we get down to the business of marriage. “We’re still living with her mom which will create tension for sure. Then we’ll be dealing with house problems and baby problems. It’s pretty grounded in reality.”
He’s also happy that “2 Broke Girls” has taken the “Two and a Half Men” spot at 9 p.m. Monday as the show’s lead in. “We have built our audience and they were the breakout sitcom last year. It’s going to be two hits back to back. It will be a nice hour. They skew a little younger so maybe that will get us some fresh sets of eyes. It will work out well for us.”
While McCarthy is focused on film off season, he works on his stand up act. And he has no qualms about playing Mike Biggs for another five or six years: “My two loves are ‘Mike & Molly’ and stand up.”
If you go
“Billy Gardell: Road Comics” with Ken Rogerson, Tim Wilson and Ben Creed
7 p.m., 9:30 p.m. $10
The Punchline, 280 Hilderbrand Drive Northeast Atlanta, 404-252-5233
By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk