Brad Garrett on 'How to Live With Your Parents': 'There Aren't Many Shows With Jewish People, Let Alone 7-foot Jews'

Yahoo! TV
ABC's "How To Live With Your Parents (For The Rest Of Your Life)" stars Brad Garrett as Max.

"How To Live With Your Parents (For The Rest Of Your Life)" - Brad Garrett

ABC's "How To Live With Your Parents (For The Rest Of Your Life)" stars Brad Garrett as Max.

It's no secret that Brad Garrett likes to gamble. And at this point in his life -- with another new comedy, "How to Live with Your Parents for the Rest of Your Life," featuring leading ladies Sarah Chalke and Elizabeth Perkins -- he should be hitting the tables a lot. It's true. This. Boy. Is on fire.

But then, what else is new? He was cracking us up as Robert Barone on "Everybody Loves Raymond" and Eddie Stark on "'Til Death," and way back in the '80s as a contestant on "Win, Lose or Draw." Garrett talked to Yahoo! TV about his game-show-induced struggle with Burt Reynolds hair envy (tissue alert), the new episode of "How to Live With Your Parents," and how to not screw up your kid. That's a tall order for anyone, even this guy.

You and Elizabeth Perkins have terrific chemistry. Did you meet with a lot of potential wives for this show?

You know, to be honest it was kind of the other way around. Elizabeth was set and they were looking for Max and I really had to go for it because they were thinking another way for my character. So, I got in touch with the people. And they were gracious, like, "Oh Brad, that's sweet; we love ya we just don't see ya as Max. Will you do a screen test with Elizabeth?" And I said, "Absolutely." That's how much I believed in the pilot. And I ended up doing a screen test, and there was an automatic chemistry. I had never met Elizabeth, and I was a huge fan, and even in the screen test, doing the dialogue, we ended up over talking each other, finishing each other's sentences, and acting like a couple who were married, who really dug each other. So I got lucky.

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The social commentary about modern parenting is spot on. Did you have strong feelings about that going into this?

I really did. I love how it took the family dynamic and put it in more of a real, kooky context. There are people who are married, who have been married for a number of years, and have accepted where they're at and like their empty nest. These people aren't the greatest parents in the world, but they don't have any guilt for it, and they don't try to defend it. They're, like, "We'd love to help ya, how long do ya think you'll be here?" I love that aspect of it, especially now that more and more older children are moving back home, be it economic or whatever. So I thought that was really timely, and I loved how it wasn't a bickering, middle-aged couple that needed to be saved by their kids moving back. They say when you're raised by eccentric hippie parents, you become usually very strict conservative. I thought it was a great take that (series creator) Claudia Lonow had on this.

Watch a clip of Garrett and Perkins on the show:

Did you ever move home with your parents?

You know, I really didn't. I moved out very early, left the driveway doing about 90 miles per hour. I was on a mission. I had to get out of Dodge.

Was that before or after you won "Star Search"?

Exactly. I was on my own way before that, believe it or not. My parents were divorced. When I was 15, I moved in with my dad. And I moved out right after high school.

See Garrett on an episode of "Star Search" from 1984:

Were they supportive?

Very, very, and I think that's why it was easy for me. They were very supportive from the beginning. I'm very grateful. I know that's rare. I dropped out of UCLA in the very beginning, after six weeks, and I was, like, "I'm gonna just do stand-up," and they were like "All right." I know it sounds corny, but this is really true. I asked my dad, "You're really cool with this?" And he goes, "Yes, you're funny. You've always gravitated toward this. You gotta do your thing." And this was a guy who was a salesman his entire life, hated his work, worked six days a week. It was "Death of a Salesman." And I said, "But if I drop out of UCLA, I might not have something to fall back on." And he looks at me and he goes, "You know, sometimes in life, if you have something to fall back on, you fall back." And I was like, well that's pretty heavy for a guy that only finished the sixth grade. I never forgot that.

That's some heavy parenting.

I was lucky. And they were very wacky. There was a lot of eccentricity. So I think I related to that in this [show], too. They didn't get along, unfortunately, like Elaine and Max.

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In this week's episode, we're meeting an "old aunt." How old is this aunt?

God love her, she's on her deathbed. And she was an aunt who was kind of crappy to Max growing up, very degrading, sarcastic. And he's very mixed, you know, about having to say goodbye to this aunt, but, you know, being raised with that Jewish guilt that Max was raised with, that, God knows, I was raised with ... Elaine feels, you must come to grips with this relationship and you must let it go and you have to have closure. And she talks Max into visiting the aunt. And the visit doesn't go as well as it should, and then he wants to make a second attempt, but she ends up passing before he can really make it right. So Elaine takes him to the morgue to have his closure. They make this visit where she's supporting him, but she becomes unglued once she sees him having this conversation with this corpse. So it's a very funny twist on what we think is gonna happen. Elizabeth is so hysterical. We're in the morgue with a bunch of cadavers that are covered. I love the dark humor. And this is where we go.

And the other story is where Natalie wants to have her annual camping trip with her parents and they're recently divorced, so the camping trip is up in the air, kind of on hold. So she creates this bully scenario that is happening at school that of course isn't really happening, and she does that to get her parents to bond together to help her with this bully situation. And out of them feeling bad and guilty, they end up having the camping trip as they always have in this past to help Natalie. So it's a wonderful half hour of guilt.

This is, like, the most Jewish show ever.

You know, it is. I love it. There aren't many shows with Jewish people, let alone 7-foot Jews. It's like Animal Planet, a 7-foot Jew in captivity dealing with guilt. He's kind of trapped.

NEXT: Garrett remembers being starstruck by Burt Reynolds's hair...

We have been talking about "Win, Lose or Draw." Remember that?

Wow. I was in my early 20s, and I was trying to pay the rent.([Host) Burt Convy was great to me. And we had a ball on that show. And I'm a frustrated artist. You know, back in the '80s, game shows were really having this resurgence. They were getting all these young comics to rotate on these shows. We really had a lot of fun. Burt was a great guy, really supportive of young people kind of trying to make a little splash.

So, like so much of the '80s, it really was just as much fun as it looks.

Oh yes, to be able to hang around these stars and draw, what could be more fun than that? It was really cool. Burt Reynolds was involved, and he was a hoot to be around. I was young, and it was, like, these are people I had grown up watching.

See Garrett on "Win, Lose or Draw":

Who made you feel the most starstruck?

Burt [Reynolds]. His hair, his wonderful hair. I wanted hair like that, but mine was a little too nappy. You know, he had that Greek Adonis curl, and I had more of a Tootie-"Facts of Life" thing happening on my head. I've accepted it. What can I tell ya? I still have most of it, and if it goes, it goes. There will be no toupees here.

That's a good approach to life. Hey, how is it going with your new comedy club in Las Vegas?

You know, I'm speaking to you from there right now. I open tonight, and I do one week a month here at the MGM, and I gotta tell ya, it's caught fire. We're having a ball seven nights a week, with comics from all over the country. I always said I'd do this if I get this opportunity to be at the right hotel. The MGM and I have 20 years of history. We take great care of the comics. We put them up nicely. I pay them more than all of the other mooks. You play so many dives when you're starting out, bowling alleys and strip clubs, and you live above a bar. And I always said, "If I ever make it, I'll do a room where people can't wait to play." We're having a great old time. It's managed by my brother and somebody I've known for 30 years, who ran some of the biggest rooms in New York and New Jersey. So it's kind of like a family business. Everyone loves being here. It's a lot of fun. Vegas is the best venue for comics.

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It sounds like a great setup for a TV show: a family-run comedy club in Vegas.

You know, it's funny. We were kind of toying with that at one time. They wanted to do a reality thing, but I'm not a reality fan. That's not my thing. As an actor, I love disappearing in guys. I like playing guys that aren't too close to me in real life. It's more challenging. There's more craft involved.

How are you able to be in Vegas and not play poker 24 hours a day?

I play 22 hours a day. I love my poker. You know I love my poker. I'm not gonna lie. That's really why I'm here. I lose the money I make onstage. It's a push.

If you're pushing, you're winning.


"How to Live with Your Parents for the Rest of Your Life" airs Wednesdays at 9:30 PM on ABC.

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