By Allison Duck
After performing at various comedy clubs in town, comedian Billy Gardell is moving up to the majors, headlining Mirage’s Aces of Comedy Series at the Terry Fator Theater on Saturday night. Best known for his role on the sitcom Mike & Molly, Gardell spends his breaks from the show perfecting his stand-up. A loyal sports fan, Gardell recently turned 40 and is reflecting on that with his new comedy special Halftime.
Having started in the comedy business so young, what do you think has changed the most over the course of your career?
I think there’s been a little too much hipster added to the mix. Comedians shouldn’t wear skinny pants or snow hats. Comedians should come out, especially in Vegas, in a jacket, make you laugh for an hour and then go home. Maybe lose a little money at the tables in the casino he or she’s been hired at.
Do you think this is because so many people are getting into the business at an earlier age via avenues like Last Comic Standing?
I think we’ve got too many things in which you can get success by winning a contest. Last Comic Standing, American Idol. I think that the guys who you want to see who become great comics are time-tested over years out on the road. I think that’s where you really make your bones and learn how to really hone your craft. You shouldn’t be successful because you won a talent show. Spoken like a bitter 40-year-old.
Well, you did work your way up the ranks.
I did. I earned my stripes. I’m not bitter. I have nothing to be bitter about.
What can you tell me about your new stand-up special Halftime?
The tour supports the special and it’s about turning 40 and realizing you’re lucky to get about 80 years on the planet, so 40 is halftime and that’s when you have to make the adjustments. You go from “woo hoo, let me have another shot” to “how much sodium is in that?”
Is it kind of a reflection of your career thus far, as well?
Absolutely. I talk about being crazy when I was young, and now I’m married with a son and I have to be the adult, and it’s about that transition. At some point, you have to make that turn; otherwise, you’re the 45-year-old loser at the bar with skater shorts on and a goatee.
Do you feel you’ve been typecast as the funny big guy? Are there any other genres you would like to explore?
God I hope so. It’s better to be typecast than not cast, right? I am very proud of the role I get to play. My heroes were Jackie Gleason, John Candy, George Carlin and Richard Pryor, and I am literally getting to live out most of those dreams. Because of the success of Mike & Molly, I get to do stand-up at an awesome level where there’s a thousand people a night as opposed to a year ago when there were 22 people yelling about the bar prices. At the same time, I get to run around like my idol Jackie Gleason and I get to be on a weekly television show that’s fantastic.
What can fans at the Mirage expect from your Vegas stand-up show?
Well, my stand-up show is from a working-class sensibility. Most of my humor comes from sarcasm and, like I said, my youth and now adulthood, and it links up very well with Mike & Molly. It’s the same sensibility. I am very blessed that I am on a show that lines up with the kind of humor that I do. Tim Allen, who was one of the best sitcom guys ever, his act was a little bluer, and I remember hearing about a time about him where the younger audience would come see him thinking they’d see a version of his TV character onstage, and he was a little darker and bluer than they expected, and he had to adjust through that. I was very lucky that my show matched up with my stand-up almost perfectly.