Billy Gardell

In a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal, comedian Billy Gardell of CBS’ Mike and Molly expressed his sadness at the age of 11 when his family was uprooted from their life in Swissvale and relocated to Florida.

“It was turmoil for me, but out of turmoil comes the way you deal with things,” Gardell told WSJ writer Marc Myers.

Gardell describes his childhood with a blissful reverence, remembering how little his family had and attributing that to more imaginative pastimes.

“Up until we moved, I was a real Pittsburgh kid. Alleys were my playgrounds, and we played ball on fields that weren’t in great shape. Before laptops and apps, I caught lightning bugs, played hide-and-seek and sat under trees with my buddies figuring out what we were going to do that day. My generation is the last bus from the old school before they closed it up. I cherish that,” says Gardell.

Gardell remembers that even after moving to Florida he and his siblings spent summers in Pittsburgh where his father “bought us three bus tickets, and we’d stay at his place.”

Gardell goes on to outline his beginnings in comedy and the early start that his life in Pittsburgh afforded him.

“My work ethic and humor come from Pittsburgh. My grandfather worked for the railroad, my uncle worked in the steel industry, my mother never had less than two jobs, and my father, Bill, painted houses and then worked in a bank. What I noticed about my relatives, and my dad’s buddies, is how they got through their days by making light of their situation. Humor does that, especially in adverse times.”

Today Gardell still has an office full of Pittsburgh memorabilia and this advice for younger generations: “learn to work first, play second.”

Read the full article here.

Rebekah Zook is a Duquesne grad and all-around story-telling enthusiast. A former fellow at WESA, she worked as a production assistant for their daily talk show. Most recently, she taught in the Propel Charter School system as a visiting artist. When she isn’t writing, Rebekah is a trip leader for the local non-profit organization Venture Outdoors. You can usually find her in a bright yellow kayak.