Actor/comedian Billy Gardell has hit the big time playing big-framed, big-hearted Chicago police officer Mike Biggs on the highly rated CBS sitcom "Mike & Molly."
The show, which was just renewed for its second season, features Gardell and Plainfield native Melissa McCarthy as an overweight couple who fall in love after meeting in a weight-loss support group.
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When: 8 and 10:15 p.m. Friday, June 3, and 7 and 9:15 p.m. Saturday, June 4.
Where: The Improv Comedy Showcase, 5 Woodfield Road, in the Woodfield Shopping Center, Schaumburg.
Tickets: $ 24. (847) 240-2001 or visit improv.com.
Gardell, 41, recently spoke to the Daily Herald about the joys of starring in a hit television series -- "I skip to work each day" -- how comedy helped him get through some rough times in childhood and his stand-up comedy show at the Improv Comedy Showcase in Schaumburg this weekend.
Q. What has this past year been like for you with the success of "Mike & Molly" in its first season on CBS? Did you ever see yourself becoming a TV star?
A. It's been an amazing blessing. I never pictured being in something like this. I always thought I would top out as being the best friend or the nutty neighbor in some show. Now I have a dream job on "Mike & Molly." I work with wonderful people. I can't wait to see them all again in the fall.
Q. What do you think is the main reason for the show's success?
A. People really identify with Mike and Molly. (Series creator) Mark Roberts' vision was a story about two people who thought they would never fall in love, actually falling in love. Mike and Molly do have the weight issue -- but they actually have things pretty together. It's the cast of characters around them who are crazy. We kind of take pride in the fact that we are the relatives you HAVE to invite to the wedding.
Q. The show takes a look at "real" people -- not supermodels -- dealing with life's issues in a funny way. How have fans reacted?
A. We feel like the Midwest has really embraced us. In L.A. and in New York, they look at us and say, "It's cute." But in the Midwest, they say, "I know these people." They see the real moments, the human stories.
Q. Were you a funny kid?
A. I was sarcastic. I figured I wasn't going to make it to college, so I thought I would make something out of being funny. I used to watch "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson" with my grandmother on Friday nights. I wanted to do stand-up comedy for as long as I can remember. I just wanted to make people laugh. Plus, humor is a good defense mechanism. Growing up, I had a couple of stepdads -- I went through some turbulent times. A sense of humor is a pretty good weapon.
Q. Tell us about your stand-up comedy show at the Improv in Schaumburg on Friday, June 3, and Saturday, June 4.
A. It's called "Half-Time," in reference to my recent Comedy Central special. I'm 41 now -- if I'm lucky, I'll get 80 years. So I'm at half-time in my life. I played hard the first half. Now it's about making adjustments. When you are 21, it's like, "Let's have another shot!" When you are 41, you think, "How much sodium is in that?" You find out you are a mortal human being.
Q. Do you bring your own experiences of being a husband and father onstage in your stand-up act?
A. Yes. A huge chunk of my act is about being a father. My son Will is 7. If he had a cologne, it would be called Cookies & Dirt. I love being in his world -- it's all Army guys. And he has a big box filled with just a rock, a paper clip and some chewed gum. I think those are good priorities to have in life.
Q. What does Will think about having a famous father?
A. I make sure I let him know that Daddy has a great job -- that's what I do. But who I am is his father.
Q. Do you mention your wife Patty in your comedy act?
A. Yes. I'm very happily married -- I know this because my wife told me.
Q. What are you looking forward to when you come to Chicago?
A. I love Chicago. The Improv in Schaumburg is a great club. And I can't wait to get to Portillo's -- they've got good everything.