Mike & Molly's Billy Gardell Hands Out $1 Million At His Other Job

Michael Schneider

Billy Gardell didn't think his new show, Monopoly Millionaire's Club, would give away so much money so fast. But on this week's episode, the weekly syndicated game show--which just premiered in March--is already giving away a $1 million prize.

Monopoly Millionaire's Club features lottery players from around the country, randomly selected from the audience to play games based on the iconic board game. We talked to the Mike and Molly star about his other job.

How's the moonlighting going?
It's an absolute blast. Monopoly Millionaire is starting to take off. We've had some big time winners; in fact, this weekend we have someone who wins $1 million. They said we weren't going to do that for at least 30 shows, that's what the odds guys had. But we've given away $1 million twice in 12 episodes.

I imagine someone on staff is starting to freak out.
I think it makes great television. It's not my money so I don't care. I think the only people worried are the insurance people.

Because it's in conjunction with the lottery, there are still a few states where people can't play.
It's syndicated nationally; there are 14 or 18 states connected to lottery and we're hoping to get more to come on board. The way it's connected to the lottery allows it to become the biggest cash prize on television.

And then there's the Monopoly brand.
Yeah, I wanted to do a game show and I wanted it to be a big one. I wanted to do a Gleason-style game show and Monopoly came up. As soon as I saw their idea, I was on board. They built a 50,000 square foot LED stage outside the Rio in Los Vegas, and this thing looks like you're inside a spaceship. And all the games are based on the iconic images of the game, like Free Parking, the railroads, Electric Company, Community Chest, all of that stuff that you grew up on. And they did the impossible, they made Monopoly a fast-moving game.

What's your time commitment?
It's a truly wonderful schedule for me. Every six weeks we fly to Vegas and do six episodes, and then fly away, and six weeks later we're back. It's not at all taxing, and I get to root for people to win life-changing money. It's been a rush.

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What's it like on stage when someone wins $1 million?
It's unbelievable. There's no word for it. And this week's winner is a new grandma. She was three stations away from Go and she landed on Chance, and had to pick one of four cards. One card said "go to jail," the other two were money prizes. But there was a card in that four that said, "advance to Go and win $1 million." She couldn't pick and I said, "You have a new grandson, do any of these numbers mean anything?" She said, "He was born on the 3rd." So she picked card number 3 and won $1 million. You couldn't have written it better."

How much of the game is luck?
A lot of this game is luck and chance, that's what makes it fun. It has the Vegas atmosphere about it, and there's always a decision: Stay or go. There's some big money prizes.

Why are so many comedians interested in doing a game show?
It's just an easy transition for us. The first thing you learn to do in a comedy club is host a show. That's how you get paid, to emcee a show. You talk to the audience. It makes an easy transition for us to game shows because it's kind of a similar arena.

Did you play Monopoly growing up?
I think there's still a game we haven't finish, it's still on the kitchen table in my father's house from 1978. We played it a lot. In my house, whoever was the banker won. Wink, nudge.

Any Monopoly game tips?
My goal was always to get the corner by Just Visiting and jail. I would get the blues and the tans and then all four railroads. You could pretty much whittle people down to nothing.

Talk about Mike & Molly, which was picked up for Season 6.
It's tremendous. For a sitcom to go six years these days is such an astounding feat. Truly feel grateful for it.

Monopoly Millionaire's Club is syndicated; times and stations vary. Check here for your local listings.