BEST BETS: ‘Mike and Molly’ star Gardell goes from TV to Dover stage

You probably know Billy Gardell for playing police officer Mike Biggs for six seasons opposite Melissa McCarthy in the hit CBS sitcom “Mike and Molly.”

You may even know him for portraying Elvis Presley’s domineering manager Col. Tom Parker on the CMT miniseries “Sun Records” or as the Emmy-nominated host of the game show “Monopoly Millionaires’ Club.”

But before hitting it big on “Mike and Molly” in 2010, Mr. Gardell was a standup comic, constantly on the road for more than a decade.

Billy Gardell

Even throughout the run of the show, he never stopped going out to entertain on the weekends.

“I don’t think it’s something you can ever quit doing. I think if you quit doing it, it goes away. It’s kind of like going to the gym. Although I wouldn’t know much about that,” joked the portly 48-year-old Mr. Gardell last week by phone from Orlando, Florida, where he was appearing at an area comedy club.

Mr. Gardell will bring the laughs to Dover Downs Hotel and Casino’s Rollins Center Feb. 16 at 9 p.m. A limited amount of tickets are still available.

He said his “respect” for standup comedy has kept him in the game and he’s performing now to much bigger crowds than in the old days.

“I knew with the success of ‘Mike and Molly,” it would end up being lucrative. I ended up going from 100 people to 2,000 people a show. It’s the same act. The jokes just got more expensive,” he said with a laugh.

He says he knew he wanted to be a comedian when he was as young as 9 years old.

“I would watch Johnny Carson with my grandmother on Friday nights and the comedians always would keep your attention. I always thought that would be a neat thing,” he said.

“Then I started collecting comedy records in the 10th grade and it went from there.”

When he was 17 and working in a warehouse, he would talk about doing an open mic night. His coworkers bet him that he wouldn’t do it and he took the challenge, setting him on a comedy path.

His style of comedy has always been talking about what’s going on in his life at the time.

“You always want to convey a connection with your audience and some are a lot smarter than me. Some comedians are brilliant at observational comedy. But my comedy now is all about being married, trying to be a dad without being a hypocrite and being over 40 and still thinking you’re bulletproof,” he said.

Mr. Gardell has been married to his wife Patty since 2001 and they have one son, William, who is 14. He said they don’t mind being talked about on stage.

“They’re great about it. My wife knows if we have a really good argument, it’s going in the act,” he said.

“Mike and Molly” came to an abrupt halt in 2016 when CBS elected not to renew its licensing agreement with Warner Bros. Television. After the announcement, Ms. McCarthy tweeted that she could have done the show 50 more years. Mr. Gardell agreed.

“None of us wanted to stop. Warner Bros and CBS couldn’t work it out. People who make more money than I do are paid to make those decisions,” he said.

“It’s a shame because I thought we were in a place where we could have gone probably three more seasons without getting stale,” he said.

Despite the cancellation, the show did end on an upbeat note in the final episode as the couple adopted a baby and then Molly announced she was pregnant with a baby of their own.

“I was happy with the way it ended with a great closing piece,” Mr. Gardell said.

After “Mike and Molly,” Mr. Gardell transitioned into a dramatic role last year with “Sun Records,” which dealt with the early Memphis days of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and others.

Playing the domineering Col. Parker took some convincing to top network brass.

“(Executive producer) Leslie Greif really believed in me enough to sell me to CMT and convince them that this guy from a sitcom could do the job,” he said.

“My wife found an outfit like Col. Parker would wear and I auditioned on tape for the part. We then flew down to Nashville and they liked what I could do with it. I thought the show could have been more than a miniseries. I thought the actors had such wonderful energy. It was a fantastic show.”

Mr. Gardell said because of that role, he is now being considered for hour-long drama shows.

Currently, he has a recurring role as Herschel Sparks, the chicken-raising neighbor of the Coopers and father of Sheldon’s tormentor, Billy Sparks, on “The Big Bang Theory” spinoff “Young Sheldon.”

“(Executive producer of “Mike and Molly” and “Young Sheldon”) Chuck Lorre has been very good to me. He asked me if I wanted to play a semi-creepy redneck and I said ‘Absolutely.’ They are bringing me back in February. It’s an great and talented cast of such a high level,” he said.

He’s looking forward to getting back into a show of his own in the future.

“I just love to work and when I see an opportunity, I try to seize it. On my wish list, I’d love to do an hour-long drama but I’ll always entertain the notion of another sitcom,” he said.

Tickets for the 9 p.m. Dover show are $25 to $45 and can be purchased at doverdowns.com or by contacting VIP Services at (800) 711-5882.

Lonestar in Harrington

As we told you last week, country recording artists Lonestar will perform at Harrington Raceway and Casino’s Exhibit Hall Saturday night as part of the Live On Stage series lineup.

Lonestar has amassed over 10 million albums sold and 10 No. 1 hits, including “No News,” “Come Cryin’ To Me,” the inspirational ballad “I’m Already There,” and their crossover smash hit “Amazed.”

Country hit makers Lonestar will perform at Harrington’s Exhibit Hall Saturday.(Submitted photo)

Lonestar, comprised of Richie McDonald (lead vocals), Michael Britt (lead guitar and backing vocals) Keech Rainwater (drums), and Dean Sams (keyboard and backing vocals), has garnered Platinum-selling albums, ACM and CAA awards including the 1999 ACM Single of the Year for “Amazed,” and the 2001 CMA Vocal Group of the Year.

Their latest and 10th album, “Never Enders,” reflects where they started from back in the Texas honky-tonk roots.

Tickets for the 8 p.m. show are $44 and can be purchased online at www.harringtonraceway.com, by calling 888-887-5687, Ext. 5246 or stopping by the Casino Gift Shop. All ages are welcome.

Lima to play Old State House

Tonight, Delaware Friends of Folk will present the next event in their 2017-18 Old State House concert series, inside the Old State House on The Green in Dover.

This month’s show features Delaware-based singer songwriter Trini Lima. Ms. Lima is a solo, singer/songwriter as well as the founder and lead singer of her band Key of Red.

Born in Madrid, Spain, and raised in the U.S., her original songs run the gamut from straight-ahead rock ’n roll, through blues-rock, neo-folk, new age and straight on to symphonic rock. Her songs range in subject matter from quintessential “angry chick songs” in “Twisted” and “Done With You”, the gothic vampire romance of “Demons and Doves”, bleak despair with “Things Fall Apart” and “Doll”, to the mysterious, delicate beauty of the aptly-named “Haunted.”

The concert is free. The one-hour performance will begin at 7:30 pm. Seating is limited.

Smyrna Arts Cotillion

Smyrna Opera House’s annual arts cotillion and Smyrna 250th Anniversary Celebration kickoff event will be held Saturday from 6 p.m. to midnight.

The night will include a live auction, live music by On The Edge, heart, dancing, open bar and more.

The event will also feature the “Taste of Smyrna and Beyond” — a wide variety of local restaurants will be providing food.

Semi-formal dress is suggested or dress in clothing that represents some element of Smyrna’s past or present.

Tickets are $100 per person. They can purchased by visiting www.smyrnaoperahouse.org, the theater 7 W. South St. or call 653-4236.

Haleyz Cometz

As we also told you last week, Haleyz Cometz appears at the Modern Maturity Center in Dover Saturday night.

Tickets are $45 per person for dinner and the show. Dinner is at 6 p.m.; show is at 7:30 p.m. Proceeds benefit programs for older adults in Kent County.

Haleyz Cometz is an 11-member group: six horn players, guitar, bass, drums and two female singers led by John Melinchock.

Mr. Melinchock was the lead guitar player and lead vocalist with Bill Haley’s Comets from 1988 through 2010.

Tickets can be purchased from MMC Member Services, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. or call 302-734-1200 Ext. 167.

‘Once on the Island’

Dover High School’s Academy of the Arts presents the musical “Once on this Island” today and Saturday at 7 p.m. in the Dover High School Theatre off Del. 8.

Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for students. They are available at the Senator Shop and at the door.

Celebration of ‘Letters’

The celebration of the life and works of Delaware statesman John Dickinson comes to a close Saturday with a special program featuring Gov. John Carney and an annual wreath-laying at the graveside of the “Penman of the Revolution.”

The offerings will close a season of programming to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the publication of Dickinson’s “Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania to the Inhabitants of the British Colonies,” the first widely read treatise laying out the American cause for unity in resistance to British colonial oppression — released in the winter of 1767-68.

Gov. Carney will participate in a panel discussion with two eminent Delaware historians: retired state Supreme Court Justice Randy Holland and John Sweeney, author of a forthcoming book on Dickinson’s “Letters.” The discussion will focus on Dickinson’s legacy and how it relates to politics and government today.

It is set for 11 a.m. to noon at Delaware Public Archives, 121 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Dover.

Now showing

New in theaters is the sequel “Fifty Shades Freed,” the animated “Peter Rabbit” and the true-life suspense film “The 15:17 to Paris.”

On DVD and download starting Tuesday is Julia Roberts in “Wonder” and Denzel Washington in “Roman J. Israel, Esq.”

Reach features editor Craig Horleman at chorl@newszap.com

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