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Brad Garrett

For Better or Worse...

by Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2008 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: September 10, 2008.

You just canít overlook Brad Garrett.  The 6í 8ĹĒ comic with the deep booming voice and the hangdog face may cut a striking figure, but he has been making us laugh for twenty years now. 

Though he is best known as Ray Romanoís dour sibling-rivalry-obsessed brother Robert Barone in the long-lived sitcom Everyone Loves Raymond, Garrettís mug has graced many other distinctive roles before and since. 

He started as a respected stand-up, which led to a series of appearances on The Tonight Show.  He had his share of sit-com experience even before Raymond, playing a legendary guest role on Seinfeld (as Jerryís over-protective auto mechanic) as well as appearing on series such as Mad About You, Monk, Roseanne and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.  Garrett has done supporting roles in films like Music & Lyrics, Sweet & Lowdown and Suicide Kings.  He has also done voiceover work in the popular films Ratatouille, A Night at the Museum, Underdog and Finding Nemo. 

Garrett has followed up his popular Raymond role with the FOX sitcom Ďtil Death, which is entering its third season.  Garrett and Joely Fisher (Ellen) play a long-married Philadelphia-area school principal and his wife who try to keep the love strong even after the novelty is past.  The third season of the series has a bunch of changes ahead Ė the younger married neighbors of the first two seasons (Eddie Kaye Thomas and Kat Foster) have left the scene, while breakout recurring guest star J.B. Smoove (Curb Your Enthusiasm) has become a regular foil. 

As the third season of Ďtil Death is reaching TV screens, Garrett also is taking on a brand-new world with his internet-only comic reality series Dating Brad Garrett.  The series is just what the title makes it seem Ė the recently-divorced celebrity dipping his toes back into the dating scene with camera crew in tow.  The series will air on Crackle.com.

Recently Garrett sat down with us and some other websites in a conference call to discuss his experiences on 'til Death and Dating Brad Garrett.  

You have both these projects going, and they both have to do with relationships and marriage, and you looking for a new relationship. In regards to Ďtil Death, do you think Eddie and Joy will always be together?  Is there going to be any exploring of them maybe splitting up and doing a little single life with both of them? 

I donít really know if thatís what we want to do on the show.  Iím sure weíre going to address how a marriage can evolve or doesnít evolve, and I think we may have a bump or two along the way. I donít know if weíre really going to get to where weíre exploring single life, per se, but you never knowÖ They do have a lot of interesting stories coming up, and I think maybe one of us may, but I donít know if it would be where weíre both out and about.  I think we have more of a kind of relationship with that. Weíre very vocal about it, weíre very expressive, and even though we seem to be yapping and nipping at each otherís heels a lot, we do express it and get it out. Itís the couples that donít do that, that really have the biggest risk of looking outside the marriage. 

As far as the dating show, can you just talk about how that came about and howÖ 

Yes.  We have one spot available.  Actually, itís important for people to understand that this isnít Brad Garrett looking for love; this is Brad Garrett really making a window around what itís like when a guy going through a semi-midlife crisis is out there in the playing field of the single world, thatís really what this is.  These are real participants.  It has been a very humbling process.  The Website has been up and running for a couple months and out of all the women in the country who felt they might possibly want to go out with me, only 27 women uploaded their video.  One was a guy, and one was a bear.  This is very true; you can go to the Website and see it.  It has not only been humbling, but it kind of gives you an idea of what hurdles I have in real life dating.  What it really is Ė itís just me going out with various women, with various ideas and attitudes and wishes and dreams, like all single people have and how I either berate them or try to get to know them or vice versa.  Itís really just the anti-Bachelor, is really what it is, itís the realistic take of a bachelor. 

I saw you on The View yesterday.  I know itís a little off topic, but sometimes people, when youíre on talk shows, because youíre always on the edge, youíre always going on the edge, they look a little scared sometimes.  How do you decide how far youíre going to go when youíre on something like that? 

A lot of that boils down to the medication.  What it really is, I also did Howard Stern yesterday, and I can pretty much do whatever I want.  When Iím surrounded by four ladies like I am on The View, I try to be a little bit more tempered.  People really know that when I come on, it could get a little edgy, and folks have to understand, itís really part of my personality.  Itís a huge part of my stand-up; itís really just what I do.  I try to curtail it, sometimes it gets a little out there, but most of the time I try to Ė I donít have a filter, thatís one of my problems, so I just have to try to put things through the little pea brain before they come out.  Whoopi is very familiar with how I work, as is Joy, and I think all in all, there wasnít much collateral damage. 

I wanted to ask you about the new season of Ďtil Death.  I love you and Joely together.  Is there anything we should know?  I hear your neighbors are not going to be around. 

The neighbors have moved on to different projects, to be honest, and sometimes when you start a television show, you really donít know what itís about until you get into it.  We have discovered the strength of the show really seems to be the chemistry that Joely and I, fortunately, have been able to captivate over the last couple of years.  Joely and I had never worked together; we didnít really know each other.  When she came in to read for the part, it was really, really instant, and weíre just trying to focus on that marriage, and then have characters that kind of come in and out of our lives, like J.B. Smoove, who has been a wonderful addition who is back for a full season this year as well.  Our daughter has just been cast as Lauren Storm who is terrific; Tim Sharp is coming back as her boyfriend.  Weíre doing a lot of exploring, but at the end of last season, as the end of year two, I think we really started to kind of get our momentum and weíre really trying to see what the showís about. 

What was the genesis of the web series?  Did you ever picture yourself doing such a thing, even only a few years ago? 

I have a really great relationship with Sony.  Theyíre obviously the peopleÖ the studio who is behind Ďtil DeathÖ and their comedy creative team is just a very inventive people who seem to kind of be in the wheelhouse, as I am, as far as what is funny and whatís off the wall.  It actually started one day, I had a meeting regarding Ďtil Death and I went in there, and the night before, I had a disastrous date, and I started talking about it to a couple of executives over there.  We just started laughing and talking about what itís really like to be a semi-celebrity, if you will, living in a single world with 30-something to 40-something year old women.  It was really just a very odd date and we started laughing about it.  I said, you know, because Iím not big on reality shows because most of them arenít realistic.  My thing was I would like to just take a camera, go out on a date, go to a restaurant, have totally every single date was non-scripted, and just show what itís like, as much as we can.  To be on a date on this day and time, with a sense of reality of what it really is.  A lot of itís really my humor, my cynicism, my take on marriage, and we throw these poor innocent women in the middle of it.  Some of them are really funny and some of them couldnít get out of there fast enough, and a couple followed me home and not in a good way, kind of in a stalker way. 

Nothing happened with the bear, Iím guessing. 

Nothing happened with the bear, no.  He was intimidated by my size, oddly enough. 

I think J.B. Smoove has been a really great addition to the show.  How did it work out that you were lucky enough to get him?  What do you think of him as an actor, as a comic, and as a person? 

Lucky is the word.  We all fell in love with him on Curb [Your Enthusiasm], and we thought he would be a great foil for my character, Eddie.  When we saw him, we just thought, boy, how could we incorporate him in the show?  It was a bit of a real tactical move to really land him here, and Sony aggressively went after him and we were very excited about it.  Then, one of our head writers came up with idea of the Big Brother, this guy was caught in the Big Brother program and never got his brother, we thought, what a funny way to get into it.  The minute J.B. showed up, he hit it out of the park from the get go, and heís been doing it ever since.  He has an amazing likeability about him and he still has that edge, which is the kind of edge thatís such a great counterpoint to these white folks growing up in Philly.  He was just a great friend for Eddie because heís a schemer and a dreamer like Eddie Stark, so it was just a great fit.  We got very lucky.  As far as offstage, heís just a terrific guy; heís a stand-up like me and like a lot of the writers on the show, so we can very easily get to the funny. 

I was just wondering youíve been on two successful scripted shows in your career.  How did you find the leap to the unscripted reality, and was it easier or harder than you were thinking it was going to be?  How did that go for you? 

Well, my stand-up act Ė Iíve been doing stand-up for literally 30 years, and the majority of my stand-up in unscripted.  I come from the world of Improv; I love any show or any vehicle that gives me an opportunity to be in the moment.  A lot of times when weíre rehearsing on this show, we just sometimes go on a tangent on Ďtil Death and try little things and experiment.  Itís kind of like what Iíve said before, the majority of reality shows are not reality, even though they call them non-scripted, there is an A, B, and C plot, and away they go.  These are totally a poor, helpless date and me in a room together.  To me, the unscripted part of it was what really made it exciting, and made it experimental and hopefully gave it a feeling of reality.  I welcome that. 

Speaking quickly of reality, what are you looking for, ideally, in a woman if youíre not going to find it an online show? 

Someone who wonít run to the authorities, someone who understands that Iím just a big kid who has trouble growing up.  Itís a sweat, Iím not going to lie to you, Iím a strong cup of coffee, at least thatís what the shrink keeps telling me.  Iím open, we have one slot left, I donít know what youíre looking for, but if you donít have much pride and dignity, I could be the guy for you.  Oh, she hung up, thatís not a good sign. 

I was wondering if you could share your most memorable moment youíve had from various dating debacles. 

In real life? 

No, from the show. 

From the show, I have to tell you, gosh, I know this sounds like a debacle, it was kind of like a dream date for me.  What happened is there was one lady; actually, she was the last date we filmed.  Ironically, she was picked by my Mother, on the panel, to be a good date for me, and she was a very attractive gal.  A little Hollywood as far as her various parts, I felt, had a lot of work done.  Do you know what Iím saying, which is totally fine.  I, personally, believe in evolution and I welcome it, hence the way I look.  We started talking about why women feel that augmentation is so important, and how I felt it was very sexy and attractive for a woman to really be who she is.  I found that acceptance of someone to not change their body was kind of cool and the whole thing and we started talking about her attributes, if you will.  It kind of got a little defensive in one way and she ended up exposing her blouse clowns.  That was kind of off the wall, even for a guy like me, I was quite taken aback, and weíre engaged.  No, Iím kidding, weíre not engaged, thereís a paternity suit and a restraining order.  That was kind of off the wall, nobody expected that. 

Thank you very much for your answer and for being candid, too. 

Iím sorry, I have to be candid.  Most of them decided, boy, I really donít want to be here, after they were there with me for a while, which you canít blame them, look at my life. 

Did any of them get to meet your children? 

Oh, God no!  Oh no, no; no one meets the kids unless I think itís a woman that Iím going to spend some real time with.  See, again, people have to understand, this is more of a comedy take on me being single than it was looking for the love of my life.  I mean, Iím not that naive, just like The Bachelor, the mannequin who stands in the castle with the rose in his hand, these are glorified dates.  What I did was take the glory out of it, and just made them real dates.  I didnít expect to find the love of my life; again, I just wanted to show people how scary dating can be. 

I thought the panel on the online show was very interesting.  I was wondering if you could tell us a little bit about how you decided, or who decided, on the experts that would appear with you. 

Well, those are my decisions; I figured theyíre the people in my life who Iím closest with.  My ex-wife Jill, and my Mom, who has strange taste in people, my urologist, because he knows me maybe too intimately Ė probably better than my ex-wife, if you know what Iím saying.  And, my exterminator, who Iíve literally known for fifteen years.  Iím a bit of a recluse; Iím a bit of a hermit.  I knew if I had friends do it, there would be some agenda or ulterior motive.  I figured my exterminator who really doesnít like me, to be honest with you, would kind of add a different hue to the whole scenario.  Itís interesting to watch Ė my ex-wife, I think, really just picked someone who Ė she wanted to hurt me, because this person had an Adamís apple, thatís all I can tell you.  It was a little strange. 

Any chance of this thing going on television at some point? 

I donít believe so, no.  I donít believe so.  It was a lot to do this simultaneously with Ďtil Death and it just become a lot of work for everyone involved.  I think it was fun, it was great, I enjoyed it, but I think Iím going to focus right now on our show Wednesdayís at 9:00. 

Iím calling from Philly, actually Ė your characterís hometown. 

Yeah, thatís where my Dad was born, actually. 

Would you ever consider doing some shooting in Philadelphia?  I know itís kind of expensive. 

You know, we talked about it.  We would love to.  Itís a matter of the dollar, but we always talked about doing some type of road or location show there.  I donít think itís an impossibility at all.  I think all of that depends on the almighty buck. 

Most actors go their entire career looking for a single long-running series, and now youíre on your second.  How gratifying is it to know that youíve been able to play a part of two shows that lasted for so long? 

I feel very, very grateful.  Iím a lucky guy.  You need a lot of luck.  Then when the cameras roll, you have to have this group of writers, directors, and actors that just gel.  It seems to literally be happening more and more.  Iím blessed to be surrounded by the people Iím surrounded by, thereís so much strength and talent and that has a lot to do with it.  I feel very grateful, there are folks with a lot more talent than I that are not on the air, so itís a crap shoot, but what was exciting for me was to take on a role that was very different than my Robert Barone role.  This guyís a lot like me and itís fun to play someone close to yourself, so Iím having a ball. 

Even before Raymond, you played a pretty legendary sitcom character as the mechanic on Seinfeld.  What was that like to be a part of that show? 

Coming up in stand-up, Jerry was really one of my heroes.  It was just great to be part of it.  It was their second-to-last season.  I went in and auditioned and read for Jerry, and thought, this would be great.  Itís just amazing the amount of people that remember that role.  Iím a bit of a car guy myself, so I am burdened with the personalities of mechanics all the time, and I just kind of took one of a guy that I knew.  It was a lot of fun just to be involved with anything on Seinfeld.  [It] was really a treat. 

Youíre doing dating, Brad, obviously and you exposed yourself, pretty much, last Friday, with Stand Up to Cancer, with the prostate exam.  How do you feel about, as a person, doing the role, youíre really putting Brad Garrett out there. 

As far as the prostate thing, I have to tell you, when Laura Ziskin called, first of all, you take Lauraís call, thatís for sure.  I knew how passionate she was about this.  Phil Rosenthal, who was the creator of Raymond, wrote the bit and they both called me and said, ďlook, there are very few people that can get away with this on a humor level and there are probably very few people who would even do this.Ē  They said ďwe want to bring up awareness through humor; a prostate exam is obviously something that is not the greatest four minutes of your life.Ē  They said ďis there a way we could gingerly do it, push the envelope, and make some awareness?Ē   The exciting thing about it is when it aired there was a company that manufactures prostate drugs for rehabilitation, and they wrote Laura a check for $10 million after the spot.  They said itís the first time anyone has taken this to a place where itís accessible, where itís humorous, where itís real, and then there was a message.  At the end of the day, thatís what itís all about.  Unfortunately, cancer has touched my life.  I lost my Father to it last November.  He had battled it on an off, various cancers, for twenty years, and Iím involved with Childrenís Charities.  Actually, I have my own charity that I started that helps supplement families with terminal children.  Iím very, very passionate about the battle against it, as millions of people are, and it showed that night with raising over $100 million.  Even though I am a guy, even with my crazy rhetoric and whatever I do, at the end of the day, Iím pretty darn shy, so it was not easy, I will tell you that.  I had to just put myself out there.  I was hoping they would go down there and find my career.

To stay on the rectal examination subject here for a moment, were you sure of the doctor?  Was he a real doctor? 

Yes, it was a doctor I was able to see, meet and greet.  I was going to use my guy, but he wanted too much money, which isnít a joke.  I think only in Hollywood would that happen. 

I can understand that.  How did you feel afterwards?  I knowÖ 

Well, weíve been dating ever since. 

Maybe he could take that empty slot on yourÖ

Very good.  Look, thank goodness, Iím healthy and Iím okay, and I have three friends that are getting an exam this week on a dare.  They said if you do that, Iíll do that.  I joke about it, but I mean, my gosh, itís serious. 

Were you confident that you would pass it? 

Yes, actually I did because I had an intense physical literally ten days prior to that, out of coincidence.  This thing with the cancer benefit happened very last minute because they were worried about the sensors, they were worried about getting it past, they were worried about everything and it ended up Ė the publicity it got alone just generated so many eyes to it.  Look, Iím not going to call it a shining moment in my life, but hey, if a few people called in a pledge, you have to love it. 

I was just curious, in between seasons, is there anything you do to get to know Eddie a little more, or by the end of the first season, do you know him inside and out? 

I have to tell you, it took me a couple seasons to really get to know Eddie.  How I played him early on, I wasnít in love with it, I felt he had to be tempered a little bit, and I felt he had to be a little more vulnerable and a little more open, so Iím always tweaking him.  Itís funny, heís closest to myself as anything Iíve ever played and if I could just keep that into it and spice him with a little bit of humanity.  I feel that the last part of season two, the last part of last year where I had that swimming episode where I learned to swim because I wanted to do something great for Joy, take her to Hawaii where she always wanted to go, thatís really where the guy lives.  Heís really just a big kid with crazy ideas and schemes to get to that next place in his life where he thinks he belongs, where he can make a better life for Joy.  Thatís the wheelhouse where I want to keep Eddie, and I think itís Ė Joely hit this role when she was playing Joy, she hit it out of the gate, immediately.  She knew who she was and I came from playing such a very different part for nine years that it was important that this one was as different as it could be from Robert, but still had the quality of believability and who I was. 

Okay, and from your early days of stand-up and appearing on Carson, is there anything that stayed with you that helps you on Ďtil Death? 

Sitcoms are great for people with stand-up roots because youíre in front of that live audience.  I think the fear I had when I was on The Tonight Show at 24, you get through a night like that, regardless of how the set goes, and the set was okay, you get this feeling of, wow, I could almost do anything.  I walked out on Carson, I did this, and itís all a matter of Ė to this day, I have anxiety, to this day, I get worried or nervous, it never, ever leaves you, but you just get better at it.  Thatís what I learned.  I look at what I did on Carson when I was 24 and I thought, oh my God, I couldnít do those jokes if there was a gun to my head today.  The key is to always grow and always get better, always risk and do things that scare you, like the prostate thing.  I know it sounds crazy, I was scared, nervous to death, but you know, you get away from something like that, and itís literally about conquering the fear, which makes you just a better performer, whether youíre a painter, a singer, or an actor, really. 

Why do you think people keep tuning in to watch Ďtil Death? 

I think because, hopefully, they see themselves in this relationship.  The majority of people that are married, or in a relationship, are trying to make it work, the majority, Iím going to say 90% of people that are involved with someone.  It takes a certain amount of work, and I think when viewers can see themselves in a relationship or different colors that their relationship has, I think itís a feeling of comfort.  Itís a feeling of, yeah, this is okay, this is what Iím going through.  Oh my gosh, my husband just did what Eddie did, or my wife did something that Joy did.  Thatís why we keep Ė the mantra I learned from the Raymond people, which Iíve tried to bring over here is can this really happen, and if we keep the writing and the performances within the realm of everyday reality with relationships then whether something is funny or not, if itís real and believable, weíre halfway home.  Iím hoping people find themselves in these characters.

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Photo Credits:
#1 © 2008 Sam Jones. Courtesy of FOX Television.  All rights reserved.
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#5 © 2008 Mike Yarish. Courtesy of FOX Television.  All rights reserved.
#6 © 2008. Courtesy of Sony Entertainment.  All rights reserved.
#7 © 2008 Michael Desmond. Courtesy of FOX Television.  All rights reserved.
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