For six seasons stand-up comic Billy Gardell portrayed half of the title characters on the CBS sitcom “Mike & Molly.” The show, with its smart writing and solid ensemble cast, was often compared to some of the classics of the genre like “Welcome Back Kotter,” “Cheers” and even “Seinfeld.”
It also served as a launching pad for the film career of Melissa McCarthy.
After the show wrapped, Mr. Gardell flexed his dramatic acting muscles, playing Elvis’ notorious manager, Colonel Tom Parker, in the CMT series “Sun Records,” but he’s now back at his stand-up comedy roots. Mr. Gardell discussed playing a “bad guy” and all things “Mike & Molly.”
Question: Is this the second time the cast has reunited at an autograph show?
Answer: This is actually my first time. I was actually going to come with the fellas last time, but I got invited back to wave the terrible towel at the Pittsburgh/Miami game. And my kid made that choice for us. (Laughs)
Q: What is it like to get back together with your co-stars?
A: Well, these guys I talk to all the time. Our cast was really wonderful in that way. We all stayed in touch with each other. Any reason to hang out with them is great. And it’s been nice because you get the personal touch with the fans. Our fans were so loyal to us that it’s nice to come down and be a part of that.
Q: What are the most common things the fans say when they come up?
A: You know what’s great about our show? There’s such great compliments. They say, “This is the show the whole family watched together.” You don’t have many of those these days.
And they say, “I was going through something,” whether it was medical or a tough time, “and your show helped us through that.” You don’t really get to realize that ripple effect of the good it can do. It’s cool.
Q: Why was the show a classic sitcom?
A: I believe that, and I thank you for saying that. I believe the show will hold up. Ten years from now you’ll still be able to watch it.
Q: Do you think it will hold up like shows like “Barney Miller” and “Happy Days”?
A: I hope so. But that’s a rare air fraternity. I think we left a good mark. There was positivity and a heart in our show that I think people identify with.
I think we’re going to stand the test of time.
Q: The fans feel like the show left too soon. Do you agree?
A: One hundred percent it left too soon. I think we could have done 10 years, but people who make more money than me make those decisions. Usually behind closed doors. (Laughs) But we can’t be ungrateful for what we did get.
Q: Do you keep in touch with Melissa McCarthy?
A: Absolutely. I saw her a couple months ago. We were in New York at the same time. I was doing stand-up, she was doing a movie. So I got to stop by the set and surprise her. It was very lovely.
Q: What is going on with your live comedy?
A: As a matter of fact, I’m working on a new hourlong special, and I just toured all summer. We’ll see what happens next pilot season.
Q: Do you still love doing stand-up?
A: I do. It’s my favorite thing in the world, and because of the acting gift of “Mike & Molly” now I have a bigger audience. It’s very nice.
Q: Tell me about playing Col. Parker in “Sun Records.”
A: That was super fun. Got some good critical reviews with that. It’s streaming on CMT right now.
Q: What kind of preparation did you do to play the colonel?
A: I went down to Memphis, and I got to talk to a lot of people who knew him. I found out that nobody knew him. Even the people that knew him didn’t know him. I kind of started building the character from there.
It was a lot of fun to play a guy who would lie all the time, versus Mike who would do the right thing all the time. It was fun thing to do.