From Billy to 'Mike & Molly'

Swissvale-born Billy Gardell plays a titular role in "Mike & Molly," which debuts on CBS this fall and is likely to be one of this fall’s breakout hits.



Billy Gardell stars as Officer Mike Biggs in CBS' "Mike & Molly," which debuts tonight.

Photo by Sonja Flemming/CBS

(page 1 of 2)

On the night of Thursday, July 22, I was fortunate enough to be in the back room of the Corner Cafe. That establishment—a small, unassuming neighborhood joint well into the South Side Slopes—has a well-kept secret in that back room. Hidden through a doorway next to the pool tables, you can find the most perfect comedy venue in Pittsburgh. A small, dimly lit room with only enough room to fit about 60 people comfortably, it’s an intimate, custom-made labor of love, perfect for local comics.

And there was plenty of Pittsburgh talent present on the night of July 22. I was fortunate enough to perform that evening, alongside a who’s who of the Burgh’s best funny people. And the audience was ravenous—supportive and entertained by every comic that appeared, even as the show stretched into a second and third hour of stand-up.

They laughed, loudly, at every joke. They roared with applause at every introduction. On the way out, they thanked us honestly for being there, and we did the same.

The perfect crowd in the perfect venue, on a random Thursday night in the South Side Slopes. Perhaps the best show I’ve ever been a part of. All because of the headliner—a local guy named Billy Gardell.

billy gardell in mike and molly

Billy Gardell as Officer Mike Biggs and Melissa McCarthy as Molly Flynn share a scene from the
new CBS comedy Mike & Molly.

Photo by Richard Cartwright/CBS    

The following night, Billy would film two shows at a sold-out Byham Theater, taped for an hour-long Comedy Central special. Thousands would fill the historic venue to be a part of the most energized and supportive crowd Comedy Central would ever film.

But, like all dedicated performers, Billy had to practice. So at a tiny bar in the South Side Slopes, one of the best comics in America was holding court. I stood in the back of the room with the other comics, feeling the satisfied buzz of a good show for a great crowd, and it hit me: Is this the last time that Billy Gardell will perform in a bar?

His ascension from road warrior to household name is just about complete, after all. The Comedy Central special was his second, the first having debuted after a string of movie roles (Avenging Angelo, Bad Santa and You Me, and Dupree) and TV spots (Yes, Dear, The King of Queens, My Name is Earl and Desperate Housewives) had helped him move into the upper echelon of touring comics.

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Bucket List: 25 Don't-Miss Experiences for the Yinzer in All of Us

Bucket List: 25 Don't-Miss Experiences for the Yinzer in All of Us

You'll have to work hard to make it through the 'Burgh Bucket List — but every entry is more than worth the effort.
Finally Home: How Pittsburgh Won Over Troy Polamalu

Finally Home: How Pittsburgh Won Over Troy Polamalu

Troy Polamalu came to Pittsburgh craving the California sun. Nearly a dozen years later, he shares a rare glimpse of the relationships he developed here — with his God, the Steelers Nation and the city he and his family now call home. One thing is certain: he never wants to leave.
Granting the Perfect Wish

Granting the Perfect Wish

By fulfilling the wish of a 12-year-old boy, PittGirl learns that you don't always need a lot of money to grant the perfect wish.
Men's Winter Fashion: Season for Swagger

Men's Winter Fashion: Season for Swagger

Try an updated take on traditional trends with these winter must-haves for men.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

Pittsburgh Area’s Chris Jamison Advances Again on ‘The Voice’

Pittsburgh Area’s Chris Jamison Advances Again on ‘The Voice’

Jamison is one of eight singers moving on to the next round.
Time Travel: Greater Pittsburgh Airport’s First Terminal

Time Travel: Greater Pittsburgh Airport’s First Terminal

A 1988 video reveals what air travel was like in the days before ultra-tight security, snack-only flights and baggage fees.
America’s Smartest Cities: Pittsburgh is No. 2

America’s Smartest Cities: Pittsburgh is No. 2

Has it seemed a bit smarter around here lately? Well, consider this . . .
15 Beautiful Photos of Pittsburgh’s 2014 Light-Up Night

15 Beautiful Photos of Pittsburgh’s 2014 Light-Up Night

Our city never looks brighter than on this annual, celebratory nod to the beginning of the holiday season.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Bucket List: 25 Don't-Miss Experiences for the Yinzer in All of Us

Bucket List: 25 Don't-Miss Experiences for the Yinzer in All of Us

You'll have to work hard to make it through the 'Burgh Bucket List — but every entry is more than worth the effort.
Finally Home: How Pittsburgh Won Over Troy Polamalu

Finally Home: How Pittsburgh Won Over Troy Polamalu

Troy Polamalu came to Pittsburgh craving the California sun. Nearly a dozen years later, he shares a rare glimpse of the relationships he developed here — with his God, the Steelers Nation and the city he and his family now call home. One thing is certain: he never wants to leave.
Granting the Perfect Wish

Granting the Perfect Wish

By fulfilling the wish of a 12-year-old boy, PittGirl learns that you don't always need a lot of money to grant the perfect wish.
Men's Winter Fashion: Season for Swagger

Men's Winter Fashion: Season for Swagger

Try an updated take on traditional trends with these winter must-haves for men.
Review: Eighty Acres Kitchen & Bar

Review: Eighty Acres Kitchen & Bar

Farm-to-table restaurant Eighty Acres brings food prepared with finesse to Plum.
Pittsburgh's Top 10: November 2014

Pittsburgh's Top 10: November 2014

Here are the 10 best things to do in Pittsburgh this month.
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags