Billy Gardell doesn't care that most Americans know him as "Mike."
As the star of the CBS show "Mike and Molly," Gardell knows the sitcom has made him more popular in the comedy world. His stand-up gigs have drawn larger audiences since the show took off.
So when he takes the stage of the Reg Lenna Civic Center Theater on Saturday, Gardell won't be offended if most of the audience has no idea they are seeing a stand-up veteran of 20 years.
He'll embrace it.
"(Stand-up) is still my first love," Gardell told The Post-Journal. "There's nothing like that connection with the audience. To be able to do it on this level because of the success of 'Mike and Molly' is just such a gift. You go from 62 people on a Thursday to 2,000 people on a Saturday. It's a pretty cool deal."
Gardell, a Pittsburgh native, will be making his first trip to Jamestown. When asked to headline the Lucille Ball Comedy Festival, he saw the opportunity as a natural fit.
LUCY COMEDY FEST FEATURED ACTS
Billy Gardell, from CBS's hit show Mike & Molly. will be performing in The Reg Lenna Civic Center, in Jamestown on Saturday, Aug. 4.
Lucie Arnaz, daughter of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, will be the musical guest and host of the Stand-Up Showcase on Friday, Aug. 3. Tammy Pescatelli, winner of Comedy Central's 2010 Stand-Up Showdown and a finalist on NBC's Last Comic Standing 2, will be the featured comedian and joined by Tony Deyo and Baron Vaughn.
Paula Poundstone, one of Comedy Central's 100 Greatest Comedians of All-Time and panelist on NPR's Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me will headline the Thursday, Aug. 2 evening.
Kid's comedy includes the critically acclaimed comedy troupe, Story Pirates, seen on CNN's Larry King, NBC's "Today," and recently live on stage with Conan O'Brien. The Story Pirates have chosen four different stories written by Jamestown children, and will be performing each one at the Reg Lenna on Aug. 4.
Gregg Oppenheimer, son of I Love Lucy creator Jess Oppenheimer, returns to Jamestown to direct a Live "Lucy" Radio Show on Saturday, Aug. 4.
Late Night Comedy will be held in the Tropicana Room at the Lucy Desi Center on Aug. 3-4 at 10:30 p.m. Some of the hottest rising comedians from across the country will converge in Jamestown for a night of new, and sometimes blue, material.
"It's an honor," he said. "Especially to be in a sitcom, to be able to honor one of the people who was groundbreaking in this field is a great thing."
Gardell's father exposed him to many sitcoms as he grew up. "I Love Lucy" was among them.
Although he cites Jackie Gleason as the comedian who influenced him the most, Gardell has great respect for Ball.
"She was real groundbreaking," Gardell said. "It was the first time a woman took the lead in a sitcom and really carried it. It was really, really funny."
Gardell knew he wouldn't make it as a college student, but he had a knack for making people laugh. He thought if he could pay the rent by telling jokes, he would win in life.
Putting his plan into action, it took Gardell more than three years to become a self-sufficient comedian. He worked odd jobs on the side to make ends meet.
Now seen by 12-13 million viewers weekly on CBS, Gardell no longer needs to do work on the side. He has his eyes on some roles away from the small screen, however.
"I hope to get a movie part at some point, but we'll see what's in the cards for me," he said. "I've got a pretty good life right now. I'd love to do an animated film. My kid is 9; he's at that age. I would love to be the voice of a bulldozer or something."
GARDELL ON STAGE
He grew up in a working-class city, and Gardell keeps that in mind when he does stand-up. He designs his sets for a working-class audience.
After doing stand-up for more than 20 years, those sets have changed in a couple of ways.
"They've gotten a little longer," he said, laughing. "I've always been a fan of the guys who wrote what was going on in their lives, because then you never run out of stuff to talk about. If you run out of stuff to talk about, then you need to do a little more living."
Gardell doesn't think he'll run out of material. He plans to do stand-up for the rest of his life.
"The beauty of it is that show business kind of looks at us (stand-up comedians) like carnies," he said. "We're allowed to do stand-up into our 80s. The more success 'Mike and Molly' brings, the more I get to go out and have big crowds."
Gardell's show, which contains some adult content, will begin at 8 p.m. Saturday. Doors will open at 7. To purchase tickets, call 484-0800 or 1-877-LUCYFAN.