Mike & Molly's Billy Gardell Talks About Premiere Jitters, Stand-Up, and Fear of the Word 'Fat'

mikemolly500.jpgBilly Gardell, an established stand-up comic, is adjusting well to his role as the star of the new CBS sitcom Mike & Molly, which, of course, premieres tonight. The series, a multicam yarn about a couple (played by Gardell and Gilmore Girls alum Melissa McCarthy) that meets at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting, is not afraid to throw around the word "fat." Movieline caught up with Gardell at a press conference to discuss the show's appeal, whether the Modern Family audience will latch on, and shifting gears from the humor in his stand-up.

The show hasn't premiered yet. How would you describe the anticipation leading up to it? Excitement? Anxiety?

I think at this point it's excitement. I think all of this [points to a crowd of press and CBS employees] is anxiety. You want the right things to be said about your show. You want to portray your show in the right light. But I think we've done that.

Is this press swarm disorienting at all? Does it make you think about where you've come from?

I'm from Minnesota! I used to work Knuckleheads at the Mall of America as a stand-up. I spent New Years there once. I'm not trying to namedrop.

Is CBS prepping you for these events? What kind of advice do they give you?

They say, "Make sure you tell them what the story is about." But people have been receptive to this show, and I'm excited about that, you know what I mean?

This show could definitely connect with the Modern Family demo. It's got that raucous familiarity.

I would agree with that, it's a great assessment. You've got people who you might not get to see falling in love on TV, they get to fall in love. They have friends who, like any of us, accidentally torture us. Sometimes the people that love us the most will say stuff that rips our ribcage out. But that's a part of life, and those are real people. I think especially in the Midwest people are going to love this show. They're gonna go, "You know what? I know that guy. I know a guy like that. I know a girl like that. I know a sister like that." I think it's gonna be good. I really do.

In the TCA press conference for Mike & Molly, it sounded like most of the journalists asking questions were treating this like an "issue" show rather than a sitcom.

I think they were all afraid to say the word "fat." So I said it for them! What am I going to do, pretend? I mean, yeah, I want to lose some weight! I'm doing the best I can. I happen to be lucky enough to sail into this part with the best peope in television who aren't afraid to put people who aren't perfect on television. So that's awesome. I'm not afraid of that.

Would you say this show is about taboo?

I mean, it's fun. It's fun to make people say, "That guy might be overweight, he's trying to meet his girl, he's trying to get the girl to fall for him." You can root for that guy. I don't know too many people who -- everyone in their group is perfect. There's usually one really good-looking dude, and everybody really hates him. This is for normal people, you know what I mean? Everybody wants to be a better version of themselves, everybody. And I hope one day I can lose some weight. Maybe, who knows, I'll hire myself a trainer and a fancy cook. In five years, maybe I'll be an action hero. Then again, maybe I'll just be this guy. Who knows? But the fun part is embracing the human side of that. Like I said, all of these characters have flaws. They're not perfect, and it doesn't work out for them every time. They don't have the great spot wherever they park. Their apartment isn't perfect. They don't have the small job that pays for the perfect apartment. This is a look inside for people that are ready for something different on television, something normal.

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