A self-deprecating, street-wise stand-up comic, Billy Gardell's ingratiating humor led to an acting career that included stints on "My Name is Earl" (NBC, 2005-09) and his own sitcom, "Mike and Molly" (CBS, 2010-16). A veteran of the tour circuit before he reached 21, Gardell's humor - which poked knowing fun at his own large frame and appetite - made him a favorite among clubgoers, which in turn led to guest shots on TV and in films like "Bad Santa" (2003). He made the rounds as a guest star and recurring character for a decade before landing his starring role on "Mike and Molly" as an overweight police officer who enters into a romantic relationship with an equally plus-sized teacher (Melissa McCarthy). The positive response to his heartfelt performance signaled that Gardell had bloomed into a capable leading man.
Born Aug. 20, 1969 in Pittsburgh, PA, Gardell moved with his mother and younger siblings to Orange County, FL after the separation of his parents. A socially awkward teen, made all the more uncomfortable by his husky build, he found solace in live performance. While a student at Winter Park High School, he wrote, directed and starred in his own sketch comedy show, "Winter Park Live," which received glowing reviews from fans and the press. Inspired by the response, he decided to pursue stand-up comedy as a career, and hit the local club circuit at 19. He quickly graduated to national gigs, including opening slots for such established comics as George Carlin and Dennis Miller.
In 2000, Gardell branched into acting for film and television. As was often the case with larger men, he essayed his share of funny neighbors and working class stiffs, with multiple stints on "The Practice" (ABC, 1997-2004) and "Yes, Dear" (CBS, 2000-06). His feature debut came in 2000 with "Avenging Angelo," which cast him as a hit man whose murder of mob boss Anthony Quinn set star Sylvester Stallone on the revenge trail. More minor but memorable parts followed, most notably in the Coen Brothers-produced "Bad Santa" (2003) as a security guard who confronts Billy Bob Thornton's drunken, ersatz Santa Claus. In 2006, he landed his first job as a series regular on the short-lived crime drama, "Heist" (NBC, 2006) as a detective pursuing a team of high-profile jewel thieves. His partner was actor Reno Wilson, who later re-teamed with Gardell on "Mike and Molly." In 2006, he released his debut comedy album, Billy Gardell: Throwback.
Gardell's TV appearances gradually grew in stature; by 2007, he had a recurring role on "My Name is Earl" as the ineffectual Officer Hoyne, and enjoyed a showy turn on "Desperate Housewives (ABC, 2004-12) as an undercover cop who enjoyed a smooch with Eva Longoria's Gaby. Gardell also appeared frequently as a man-on-the-street interviewer on Dennis Miller's eponymous CNBC talk show (2005), and in a series of commercials for Round Table Pizza, which cast him as the host of a fictitious, pizza-centric talk show. In 2008, Gardell earned his first solo comedy special, which aired as part of the "Comedy Central Presents" (Comedy Central, 1998- ) series.
In 2010, Gardell received his first star billing with the CBS sitcom "Mike and Molly," which co-starred Melissa McCarthy of "Gilmore Girls" (The WB, 2000-07) fame as a woman who meets and falls for a lonely cop (Gardell) at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting. The show, produced by Chuck Lorre and directed by James Bridges, was well received by critics and audiences alike with its September debut.