If life were a football game, Billy Gardell would be sitting in the locker room, reflecting on the first-half action and getting ready to head back out and take the field. His highlights might include the hit CBS sitcom Mike & Molly, which, for the 41-year-old comedian, is the equivalent to a momentum-changing touchdown right before halftime. Another would be his hourlong Comedy Central standup special — appropriately titled Billy Gardell: Halftime — which premieres Feb. 5 and started this whole football metaphor in the first place.
“I think when my 40th birthday hit, that’s what kind of rang true to me, like, ‘Wow, it’s about half over,’” says Gardell, recalling the genesis of the special. “And I’m OK with it. I guess that’s what I came to. And that’s where the writing of that hour [of material] began.”
There was no better place for Gardell to perform his autobiographical brand of comedy than in front of his friends and family. Halftime was filmed during a performance at the Byham Theater in Pittsburgh, which is not far from the Swissvale neighborhood where he grew up. The hometown crowd was happy to support one of their own.
“They were so amazing, man, it was like a Steeler game,” Gardell says proudly. “The ovation was overwhelming. To be able to come from the working class neighborhood that I came from, to take the journey all the way and end up filming the special in my hometown was something I never will forget as long as I’m alive.”
Pittsburghers aren’t the only ones who have embraced Gardell. Since the premiere of Mike & Molly, people all over the country have been treating him like an old friend.
“I get recognized a lot more but because our show has such a special tint to it — you know, our show is not the beautiful cast and everything works out for them — so people identify with our show in the most wonderful way,” he says. “I don’t think they feel any kind of, ‘Oh my God, that’s that guy from TV.’ I think they feel more like, ‘Hey, I can talk to that guy.’”