Interview with Billy Gardell.
A road of laughter led Billy Gardell from small comedy clubs to the big screens in Hollywood and now to Ohio University.
A stand-up comedian and TV actor, Gardell takes the stage with comedian Joe O’Connell as the opening act Saturday at 8 p.m. at Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium.
On the CBS sitcom Mike & Molly, Gardell portrays Mike Biggs, an average Chicago police officer, opposite Melissa McCarthy as Molly Biggs. But before Gardell became known as a television star, he made his name while standing on a stage, rather than in front of a camera.
“The nice thing about Billy is he started at stand-up so he’s truly a stand-up comedian and now happens to be an actor,” said Andrew Holzaepfel, associate director of the Campus Involvement Center. “Sometimes you’ll get an actor and they’re very funny but they don’t have a very standard stand-up skit. Billy will be different.”
The Post got the chance to talk with Billy Gardell over the phone.
Post: First off, how did you get started with comedy?
Billy Gardell: I always wanted to be a comedian since I was about nine years old. I started around (age) 16 in the high school talent shows and at (age) 17, I snuck into an open mic night and I’ve never looked back.
Post: Do you have a specific style of comedy that you do?
BG: I think I’m a little bit of every style. I do a little storytelling and have a few one-liners, but mostly my comedy is conversational. I like to talk to my audience, and I don’t mean talk to them as in, “Hey, where you from? How are you doing?” I like to tell a story.
Post: You’re also on TV in addition to doing stand-up. Was it difficult transitioning from stand-up comedy to TV?
BG: They are just two unique things. Stand-up is about battle and about winning the audience over. Acting is about letting the audience see you think.
Post: How is the fifth season of Mike & Molly coming together?
BG: It’s unbelievable. We can’t wait to get back on the air. We should be up and running here pretty soon. We’re doing some really good work — I think our best work. It’s an honor to make it to the fifth season. That’s a rare thing for a sitcom, especially these days. ... It’s nice to be mentioned in that group.
Post: Do you have any favorite experiences on the set of Mike & Molly?
BG: The day they told me I had the job. *laughs*
Post: Why that specifically?
BG: It’s a joy to work there every day. I am surrounded by people who are ego-less, look out for each other and care about each other. I couldn’t narrow it down to one thing but I just love working with those people.
Post: How has Mike & Molly changed since the original season?
BG: I think around season three we were starting to get into a corner with getting (Molly) pregnant quick so I think (Executive Producer) Chuck Lorre very smartly changed the direction of the show to not only give us more outlets for stories but to let Melissa (McCarthy) do what she does best. That is get her out in a situation where she can do what she does and have us react to that. That, I think, has carried us to a new height.
Post: Do you prepare differently for TV compared to stand-up comedy?
BG: Stand-up is in my blood. It’s my first thing so it’s not so much about preparation as it is just going over a few notes. Television is about memorizing your script every week. You have a different script every single week.
Post: Do you do any improv on Mike & Molly?
BG: Very little. I like the lines that are written for me. There is always room for a little bit of wiggle room in there. Every now and then, Melissa will do something that you don’t see coming and it’s fun to see if you can be on your toes to keep up with it.
Post: Are you excited to be coming to Athens on Saturday?
BG: Absolutely. I love any chance I can get to get back to the Midwest.
Post: Do you like performing for a college crowd?
BG: This is the weekend the parents come, right?
Post: It’s Dads Weekend. Yes.
BG: I think that’s why it’s good for me. I think if it’s all college kids, I think they may glaze over for a little bit. I think with dads sitting there, there is a bridge between me and them. You know, because I am a dad too so I identify with that, but I was also a nut job when I was younger so I got some for both of them.
Post: What can the audience expect at the show on Saturday?
BG: I think they’ll identify with me and my dad while they sit with their dad because I do a lot of family stuff, too.
Post: Is the show appropriate for anyone?
BG: I would say it’s probably rated PG-13. They requested, though, that I don’t drop any f-bombs while I’m performing. God forbid a college student drops an f-bomb.
Post: Do you have any favorite parts about being up on stage?
BG: I like the live reaction. When you get an audience to laugh, there is nothing like that high. It’s the best.
Post: You said earlier the crowd would be able to relate to you because their dads are in the audience, what kind of relationship do you have with your dad?
BG: The same Midwest, blue-collared dad that everybody has.
Post: Can you go into a little more detail about that?
BG: Yeah, he’s got enough tools in the garage to build a warship. He is the one who is going to tell you things until he is blue in the face and you don’t hear him until you’re about 24, so this is the perfect time. And the journey from being a kid and idolizing your dad to the teenage years where you think they don’t know anything and the beautiful come-back-around where you realize what a great friend you can have in your dad.
Post: Is there anything else I should know?
BG: Thank you to all the Mike & Molly fans, and I hope you guys have a great time at the show Saturday night.