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LAS VEGAS – If Billy Gardell had followed his mother's advice and kept the job he had at a warehouse because it had insurance, his dream of becoming a standup comic would never have come true. But Gardell gambled on his talent, and today he is the star of the CBS comedy "Mike & Molly," along with Melissa McCarthy.
This March, Gardell will start making other people's dreams come true. As host of "Monopoly Millionaire's Club," premiering March 28 and 29, he will be giving away millions of dollars in cash and prizes to the lucky winners.
"I've given away a million two times already," he told FOX411 on the Las Vegas set of the one-hour game show based on Hasbro's Monopoly game, celebrating its 80th anniversary this year. "The rush of seeing someone get life-changing money, it's a big, cool deal. They can maybe pay their house off, or their car off. Who knows? It’s really exciting."
"Monopoly Millionaire's Club" is a companion to the multi-state lottery game of the same name. It is taped in front of a live audience, comprised of lottery game winners who have won a trip to Las Vegas to participate in a taping, and who will have the chance to win $1 million.
The Pittsburgh native, 45, is a natural as host of the new show, having watched a variety of game shows with his grandmother as a kid. So, when he landed "Mike & Molly," he discussed with his agent the possibility of following in the footsteps of Drew Carey and Wayne Brady, who respectively host "The Price is Right" and "Let's Make a Deal."
"Getting the Monopoly brand couldn't have been a bigger gift," he says. "I wanted a big one, so when we landed a big name like Monopoly, I was very attracted to it."
While being skilled at the Monopoly board game doesn't really translate to the game show, Gardell continues to play the board game at home with friends and family.
"It's a great game," he says. "We have had many, many fights in my house over the Monopoly board. Shut off the TV, shut off the computer, get the family involved. I taught my son [11-year-old William] how to play not too long ago. I put up hotels on a corner and crushed him."
In addition to landing the gig as host of "Monopoly Millionaire's Club" as a consequence of the fame resulting from "Mike & Molly," Gardell has also seen an upgrade from small clubs to rooms that seat 2,000 people when he performs his standup. On April 10, he will return to Las Vegas and make his standup debut at Treasure Island Theater.
"I'm an old-school guy," he says. "I love being in Vegas. I think shows in Vegas have a little more glitz to them. To come here and get to be the host of a game show here, then come back and do my standup at Treasure Island, it's like being a part of the Rat Pack. I love it."
Gardell will happily also be back on the set of "Mike & Molly for a sixth season as the show received an early pickup for the 2015-16 season. And he is looking forward to it.
"The attitude on our set has been gratitude since Day 1, so there is no craziness. It's a joy to get to work with those people," he says. Asked specifically about working with McCarthy, he adds, "It's like a brother-sister relationship. I'm like the older brother she never had. That's what she always says to me, and it's a huge compliment. Working with her is a joy because she keeps you on your toes. She's an amazing talent and she's the kindest person in the world."