Watch Out for His Tell

Perennial joker Brad Garrett finds laughs—and a good cause—in his celeb poker tournament

bradgarrett.jpgYou don’t have to spend much time around Brad Garrett to figure out that he meanders through life without a filter—he will say anything to anyone at any time. Not only does he not care if he offends you, one gets the impression he’s offended if he doesn’t. So it’s quite unexpected—if not jarring—when the actor/comedian/comedy-club owner turns serious. That’s what happened during a recent phone interview when Garrett started talking about the celebrity poker tournament he’s hosting. The Sept. 22 event supports his charity, the Maximum Hope Foundation, which provides financial assistance to families who have children with life-threatening illnesses.

“Simply put, when I had two healthy children, I was just so grateful. And there were people in my personal life who weren’t as lucky,” he says. “There’s nothing scarier than having a child who is ill, and working with Children’s Hospital and other foundations, I just said, ‘I really want to help out these families, because this has to be the biggest nightmare to have to deal with.’ … So it’s really a foundation that helps families with day-to-day necessities that we take for granted: rent, car payment, paying the electric bill, groceries.”

Garrett pauses briefly.

“Is that the longest you’ve heard me talk without using the word ‘bunghole’?”

And … he’s back! For the next 20 minutes, the funnyman Vegas Seven tabbed as one of 2012’s Most Intriguing People (Jan. 26 issue) deftly turns his comedy switch on and off while discussing the poker tournament, as well as a busy year that’s included the relocating of his self-named comedy club from the Tropicana to the MGM Grand and a return to television.

What can regular folks who buy into the poker tournament expect?

A lot of bad players. Plus, they’ll get to see how funny it is when one of the richest guys in TV, Ray Romano, loses $20. [Impersonates Romano’s nasaly voice]: “Ohhh, I got rivered! I got rivered!’” It’ll be wonderful.

Are you any good?

I’m not great. I talk a lot of shit, like anything else. I’m a lot luckier than I am skilled.

Do you have a “tell”?

That’s interesting: When I’m holding good cards, I become incontinent. You want to be sitting upstream!

Your comedy club at the MGM has been open for about six months now. How are things going?

I know it sounds corny, but it’s a dream come true. I’m bringing in the caliber of comedians that the other clubs just don’t do. … What’s great is the comics love it. And when you have a room that comics love to play, the audience is going to have a great time. We had Gilbert Gottfried there [recently] doing a guest spot—it feels good to sit in the back of the room and watch a guy get a standing ovation. Because God knows I can’t fucking get one.

Who’s the one comic you dream of booking?

Hmm … probably George Carlin. No, we’re going after a few guys, but the bottom line is I have to be realistic. I know where I am on the food chain. The big, big boys I can’t afford, and they’re in the big rooms already. So my idea is to get the great veteran acts whom I can still afford, who will still do me a favor, and we’ve got a lot of the guys who are really on the cutting edge.

You’re returning to TV with How to Live With Your Parents for the Rest of Your Life, a new sitcom scheduled to debut on ABC in January. What can you tell us about the show?

It’s a family comedy, [but] it’s a lot darker. Sarah Chalke from Scrubs is the star, and Elizabeth Perkins plays her mom and my wife. And I play [Chalke’s] stepdad. The twist is Sarah has a 7-year-old daughter, she gets divorced, and all of a sudden she has to move back home. [But] we love our empty nest; we’re two parents who are jet-setters, we’re very eccentric, we were both hippie parents and some of our hippie traits continue into our present-day life. We’ve been married a long time, but we still really dig each other.

You know, we always see [TV] parents who are grumpy and old, and these [characters] just flourish in their 50s. I play a young grandfather, I’ve got an earring and I’m comfortable in my life—you should’ve seen me in the window of Claire’s getting my ear pierced!

You have your club here, and your history of performing in Vegas goes way back—at this point, does it feel like your second home?

Absolutely. I’ve got a lot of family [in Vegas]. I have seven godchildren living there. And my brother has moved there to help run the club. People go, “Why would you open your club in Vegas?” and I said, “Because it was my first choice.” I didn’t want a club anywhere else. I love the town. And many of the people I know there I’ve known for half my life. Look, if it wasn’t for the heat, I’d probably end up there one day.

We’ll end on this: What’s pissing you off these days?

Mitt Romney. No, I’m not really pissed at anything—it’s funny, I’m actually mellowing. I mean, the same shit pisses me off. I’m not a political guy, but I’m looking at what’s coming down … I hate politics; I never get into that. [Pauses.] You know me: I’m not bright. If I can’t make fun of a Mexican, I really have nothing to say.