No one in the biz stands up higher than Brad Garrett
Before you ask, let’s get this vital statistic behind us at the outset: Brad Garrett is 6-feet, 8.5 inches (2.04 meters) tall, making him possibly the tallest free-standing structure in all of comedy.
So why, one might ask, did Garrett choose this career path instead of one which better suited his physical stature, such as basketball or picking apples without a ladder?
“It may sound kind of crazy, but you don’t really choose comedy. Comedy kind of chooses you,” said Garrett, who brings his stand-up act to MontBleu Resort and Casino on Saturday, July 21. “Making people laugh has always been a part of my life.”
Garrett, of course, is best known as Ray Romano’s policeman brother, Robert Barone, on the long-running sitcom “Everybody Loves Raymond.” But those expecting a visit from Robert on Saturday at MontBleu will be in for somewhat of a surprise.
“It’s important to stress that for anyone expecting Robert, this is not the show for you,” Garrett said. “My material is very honest, I interact with the audience a lot, and much of it is R rated. It’s very different from the character in the TV show.”
As an example, Garrett details one of the reasons that he chose a comedy career: “It was the only thing I was good at that didn’t involve showering with large black men.”
That should give you an idea as to what Saturday evening will be like.
Garrett was born in Woodland Hills, a suburb of Los Angeles, in 1960, attended high school there and eventually enrolled at UCLA, where he lasted all of two months. Comedy was a much stronger pull on his life than was academics. Garrett started experimenting with stand-up at the age of 14, and was playing local clubs at 16.
“I was a big kid, so I always stuck out,” he said. “Making people laugh was my defense mechanism; I figured that I would get the joke out before they could make fun of me. And that’s how it started.”
After honing his act in and around Los Angeles, including at The Improv and The Ice House, Garrett became the first $100,000 grand prize winner in the comedy category on the TV show “Star Search,” in 1984.
This led to his first appearance, at the age of 23, on “The Tonight Show” starring Johnny Carson.
“It was terrifying,” Garrett said. “But then, I’m terrified when I go on that show with Jay Leno today. It was also thrilling. I held Johnny in very high regard, and knew that I had to go out there and score.
“I remember standing on the other side of that multi-colored curtain and thinking, ‘What the hell am I doing here?’ ” Garrett recalled. “I was 23. But it went OK.”
Better than OK, actually. Garrett got a lot of attention from his appearance, and began opening for headliners such as Diana Ross, Liza Minelli, The Beach Boys, and even in Las Vegas for Frank Sinatra. In 1995 he landed the role in “Everybody Loves Raymond,” which ran until 2005.
He has appeared in several TV guest starring roles, on Broadway and is active in voice-over animation, but perhaps his most memorable project outside of Raymond was in the title role of “The Jackie Gleason Story,” a made-for TV movie on CBS in 2002.
“That project was very dear to me,” said Garrett, who lists Gleason as one of his greatest influences, along with Woody Allen, Steve Martin and Jerry Seinfeld. “Especially since I was far from the network’s first choice to play the role. I had to go in and earn it. I was a huge fan of Gleason growing up. He was really a complex, troubled genius.”
Garrett is a Tahoe veteran – he’s appeared here many times, including as the opening act for Sammy Davis Jr. and Smokey Robinson at Harrah’s. These days other comics open for him – Michael Junior will do the honors at MontBleu – with one notable exception.
“Ray (Romano) and I will split the bill in a performance at the Mirage in Las Vegas next month,” Garrett said. “It will be a two-hour show, and I’m really looking forward to it.”
In 2006, Fox picked up Garrett’s new sitcom, “‘Til Death,” revolving around a long-married couple whose new next door neighbors are a pair of feisty newlyweds. Joely Fisher plays Garrett’s wife.
“It’s a great time, I’m having a lot of fun with the new show,” Garrett said. “It’s very different to start a new show, but also very rewarding.”