When the opportunity to host a game show based on the iconic board game Monopoly came up, comedian Billy Gardell jumped at the "Chance."
"I've been a fan since I was a kid," he says. "In fact, I think there's still a game going on at my house on the kitchen table somewhere that we left and have to return to."
The "Mike & Molly" star is the host of the new game show "Monopoly Millionaires' Club," premiering this weekend on WPIX/11, which ties in with the scratch-off lottery ticket game. You buy the $5 ticket and play the game on the front of the card, winning if you're lucky. Flip the card over and there's a second chance where you can enter online to win a trip to Las Vegas to be on the game show.
"And we encourage people to play responsibly," Gardell says. "I don't want you to go out and buy 9,000 of these things. Play responsibly."
Of course, you can watch the show for some classic game-show appeal. Similar to "The Price is Right," contestants get to play one of a series of games, here inspired by spots from Monopoly. So, for example, Ride the Rails is inspired by the four railroads.
One of the unique attributes of this game show is that it's not just the contestants who are in line to bring home the big bucks. The audience members, all winners of the contest on the back of the lottery ticket game, are seated in one of five sections (named after one of the iconic game pieces). The show's contestants are selected from each of those sections, and whatever they win is split with that section. So if a contestant wins $100,000, the contestant gets half and the other half is split amongst the people in the contestant's section.
Before starting his new side career as a game show host, Gardell chatted with a few of his comedian brethren about the gig.
"Craig Ferguson is doing a game show, and I've known ['Lets Make A Deal' host] Wayne Brady for many, many years," Gardell says. "I got advice from both of them and they said you just have to try and make it your own. It's a lot like stand-up because you're talking to people all the time, but be generally interested and want them to win the money, because, hey, it's not your money!"
In addition to seeing Gardell on the small screen, you can also see him perform stand-up live this Saturday night at the Theater at MSG as part of the Garden of Laughs benefit for The Garden of Dreams Foundation, which helps children throughout the tri-state area through 25 different charities.
"The money goes to the right place. It's such a good cause," Gardell says. "It's a real honor to be on stage with those other comics and an honor to be on stage at Madison Square Garden."
It doesn't hurt that the show is in the Big Apple, either.
"I love coming to New York City, so I'm bringing my family, we're going to go out to Ellis Island and then we're going to go do the show Saturday night," he says.
And the trip is a bit of a cause for celebration, too, as "Mike & Molly" was just renewed for its sixth season.
"Man, let me tell you," Gardell says, "to know that before you go on vacation, makes vacation a lot nicer!"
On TV: ‘Monopoly Millionaires’ Club’ premieres on Sunday at 7 p.m. on WPIX/11.
If you go: Garden of Laughs is at The Theater at MSG on Saturday at 8 p.m., 4 Penn Plaza, 212-465-6073, theateratmsg.com, $50-$130