Arts& Entertainment: Billy Gardell performs at EQC Aug. 10

After two decades performing his own brand of standup at every small town lounge, military base, or comedy club he could track down, Billy Gardell is finally taking Hollywood by storm. Best known for his leading role in the CBS sitcom “Mike and Molly,” Gardell’s own life experiences provide most of his standup material, making his performances more relatable than many comedians on the circuit today.

The Pittsburgh native grew up in a blue-collar family and worked in a warehouse after high school. “I found that the guys who could get through the day the easiest were the ones who could crack a joke and lighten the load,” he said. “Some of the best medicine comes from finding a way to laugh about things, and I developed that skill as a kid.”

Gardell’s material comes from his own experiences with a rough childhood, wild adolescence and current family life.

“There’s a lot of crap out there, and I’ve had enough anger and meanness in my life,” Gardell said. “Now, I just want to relax. I’ve always felt the comics who wrote about what’s going on in their lives were always the most entertaining, and as long as you keep evolving, your act evolves.”

Gardell has opened for many well-known comedians, including George Carlin and Dennis Miller. “It took me about 22 years to become an overnight success,” he laughed. “I remember performing in bars I would be afraid to even walk into if I weren’t performing.”

Still, he insists he would not change a thing. “Life hands you obstacles, and you have to learn how to appreciate the good ones,” he added.

Although his role on “Mike and Molly” has provided a significant boost to his career, he calls stand-up his first love. “I am grateful every day for my work on “Mike and Molly,” but stand-up comedy is what brought me to the dance.”

Gardell co-starred in the critically acclaimed television series “Lucky,” and has also appeared in “Yes, Dear,” “Judging Amy,” The Practice,” “My Name is Earl,” and “Monk.”

His major motion picture credits include a memorable scene in the Cohen Brothers’ “Bad Santa,” and he also appeared in “You, Me and Dupree.”

Gardell is making a stop in Tacoma at the Emerald Queen Casino on Aug. 10 at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are available for $25-$60, at http://www.ticketmaster.com.

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