PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Billy Gardell is known to millions as “Mike” on the CBS show “Mike & Molly,” but he’s still a Pittsburgher at heart.

KDKA-TV’s David Highfield and Kimberly Gill went to a Pirates game with Gardell, and he was swarmed by adoring fans.

Gardell: This is my people! My tribe!

Crowd: Billy Gardell!

Highfield: So, is this true everywhere you go? Or is this a Pittsburgh thing?

Gardell: You know, I get recognized almost everywhere I go now, but there’s no love like home!

Gardell grew up in Swissvale and says Veltre’s is still is favorite pizza shop there.

“He’s a great guy,” says owner Tony Veltre. “You’d never know he was any kind of celebrity. He’s just a Swissvale boy.”

Gardell’s allegiance to his hometown remains strong.

“I like to come back at least twice a year. That way I get here in the summertime and hit the Pirates and Kennywood with my kid,” said Gardell.

In his Comedy Central special “Halftime” he spends the first minute or so speaking to hometown fans in Pittsburghese: “I’m glad yinz could come dahn tonight.”

He explained why he wanted to say a special hello to Pittsburghers.

“This is where I come from and this is who I reflect, and I try not to embarrass them. So, there’s always got to be a little moment for them when I do this, because they knew before anybody else. They’ve been behind me for a long time,” Gardell said.

Gardell is very grateful to his friends at WDVE radio and still talks with them each week on the air. WDVE’s Randy Baumann and Bill Crawford jokingly told us that they keep Gardell’s ego in check.

Baumann: If he’s about to approach anything that sounds like, not arrogance, if he sounds like he’s getting high and mighty.

Gardell: If I’m feeling good about myself. Ha! That’s when I call back in. Straightens me right out!

Both Baumann and Crawford say they’re just kidding and that despite his success, Gardell remains a down-to-Earth guy.

As for “Mike & Molly,” he believes the show is so popular because it’s a program about “heart” that people can relate to.

He says working with his co-star Melissa McCarthy is wonderful.

“She is just as graceful as the day I met her,” said Gardell. “She’s kind. She’s giving. It’s an honor to work with her. Seriously.”

Cast member Swoosie Kurtz says that Gardell leads the cast in a prayer before each show that’s about being grateful. And Gardell certainly is that.

“I’m very grateful that success came at this age. Because if they had given this to me at 23, it’d be over by now,” Gardell said.

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