A standup guy doing standup comedy when not required. That alone would make Brad Garrett unique, but it’s his dedication to making life better for others in distress that really makes him a standout.
“I started my Maximum Hope Foundation 11 years ago when I had kids,” said Garrett, who took the time to do this interview from Los Angeles after putting in a 14-hour day on the set of a future ABC show.
“It was a very powerful time for me,” he continued. “I had done a lot charity work with a dream foundation and Make A Wish. I wanted to have my own grassroots charity. It started with two or three families in California. Now we’re helping 50 to 60 a year.”
Maximum Hope was named after Garrett’s two kids Max and Hope. His charity helps families facing their darkest days in caring for a child with a life limiting illness.
Garrett is raising funds for the Maximum Hope charity through his third annual Celebrity Poker Tournament set for Sept. 22 at the MGM Grand poker room. First prize is $10,000 with a $250 buy-in, $100 re-buys and add-ons.
“We’re putting 95 cents out of every dollar we raise toward the foundation,” Garrett said. “Even the smallest donation can help one of our many families with the daily necessities so many of us take for granted.”
Garrett usually comes to Vegas one week per month to perform at his comedy club at MGM. He didn’t do standup comedy for seven years while being part of the highly successful “Everybody Loves Raymond” show that ended a nine-year run in 2005 on CBS where he starred with his good buddy Ray Romano.
“We did 210 episodes and just ran out of things to write about,” Garrett said. “There was no show after Peter Boyle (the actor who played Frank Barone) died. Ray wanted to go out on top and we ended on a high when it was still doing well.”
Garrett started out at various improv clubs in Los Angeles. In 1984, he became the first $100,000 grand champion winner in the comedy category of the TV show “Star Search.” At 23, he appeared on “The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson,” making him one of the youngest comedians ever to perform on the show.
Soon after, Garrett was the opening act for Diana Ross and Liza Minnelli. This led to opening in Las Vegas for Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., the Beach Boys and the Righteous Brothers.
“I used to go to Vegas all the time,” he recalled. “My father liked to gamble. I am 6-foot-7 and was even a giant as a kid so I was able to get into a few casinos under age. I love roulette and play a bit of blackjack. I spent 27 years in casinos and spent a lot of dough. But poker is my favorite game. I lose a lot less at it.”
While Garrett spends a lot of time in Vegas, he’s not planning a permanent move here.
“I don’t go great with the heat; I’m a water guy,” Garrett said. “Vegas is the greatest city for standup. I’ve had people in the club from Norway, Israel and Belgium. This is a great melting pot for comics.”
It was through his shows with the Righteous Brothers that Garrett first developed a relationship with MGM that eventually landed him the comedy club he wanted and the poker tourney for his charity.
“I was at the Tropicana for a time, but I really wanted to be at MGM,” he said. “When the room became available to build a comedy club I went right over to them.”
Garrett is known for his real deep voice, but says he’s able to do a lot more of “my own voice” in his standup act.
“I always love working the crowd in the front row,” he said. About 60 percent of my act is improv. Standup is a very exciting craft. Ball breaking.”
Romano played in Garrett’s poker event last year and the two remain close. That usually brings up the subject of another TV show involving them or an “Everybody Loves Raymond” reunion. Neither is happening.
“No, what we had was special and can’t be topped.”
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