The Optimistic Pessimist

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Brad Garrett returns to primetime with Single Parents

In Single Parents, Brad Garrett stars as Douglas, a single father to Amy and Emma, played by Ella and Mia Allan. (Photo courtesy of ABC/F. Scott Schafer)

The only thing more distinguishable than Brad Garrett’s tall, towering frame is his deep, booming voice. Best known for his award-winning role as Robert Barone on Everybody Loves Raymond, the 6’8″ actor has also lent his powerful voice to some of Hollywood’s most beloved movies, including the recently released Christopher Robin.

It seems only appropriate that Garrett, a self-proclaimed optimistic pessimist, would voice Eeyore, the gloomy and cynical sidekick of Winnie the Pooh. Disney’s live action remake isn’t the first time that Garrett has played the miserable donkey; it was a role he also took on almost 30 years ago for an animated Disney TV special.

“It’s such an iconic character,” said Garrett. “I always felt that Eeyore was not just in my vocal range, but my psyche. To come back around to the character was really amazing. I was really honored to be asked.”

Come September, the three-time Emmy award winner returns to primetime television on Single Parents, an ABC comedy that follows a group of single parents attempting to balance raising their children and their personal lives. Garrett plays Douglas, a retired dermatologist raising his twin daughters after the death of his wife, an exotic dancer.

Garrett joins Leighton Meester and Taran Killam in Single Parents. (Photo courtesy of ABC/Richard Cartwright)

“He’s not a touchy-feely guy, he’s very set in his ways. He believes it’s pretty much his way or the highway,” Garrett said of his character. “He’s a little more superficial than the other parents and more cut and dry. But with that comes some big flaws, especially with parenting. When you parent, it’s fly by the seat of your pants. These things don’t come with manuals and he’s learned rather quickly you have to be more open.”

For Garrett, playing a father of two wasn’t too much of a stretch. A dad to an 18-year-old daughter and 19-year-old son, Garrett said parenting is the hardest job in the world to do correctly.

“It’s something you’re constantly learning,” said Garrett, who admits he’s been guilty of being a bit of a helicopter parent in the past. “I’m learning now to let them fly and they’re off doing their own thing and that’s a beautiful thing.”

And though Single Parents will be keeping him busy, the show won’t keep him away from his first love of stand-up comedy. In fact, it was stand-up that put the spotlight on a young Garrett in the late ’70s. After six weeks at UCLA, Garrett went into stand-up comedy full time, perfecting his act at Los Angeles comedy clubs. In 1984, Garrett hit his big break, becoming the first $100,000 grand champion in the comedy category of Star Search. That win led to his first appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson; the 23-year-old was one of the youngest to perform on the show. He soon found himself opening for Frank Sinatra and Diana Ross, as well as gaining steady voice work before earning his trademark role as Robert on Everybody Loves Raymond in 1996.

Garrett and Ray Romano on Everybody Loves Raymond (Photo courtesy of CBS)

Garrett can still often be found delighting audiences and trying new bits at his eponymous comedy club in the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, where it has been since 2012. With three decades (and counting) of stand-up experience under his belt, Garrett said it’s a lot harder nowadays to make it as a comedian.

“There are millions more people doing it. The competition is so much more difficult because so many people are trying to do it and there are so many more platforms,” Garrett said. “Late night shows are no longer the catapult. When I started, you were on Johnny Carson or David Letterman and you have a strong set and the next day you have a pilot deal for your own show. That no longer exists. You have to have a lot more going for you.”

Garrett’s advice to aspiring comics is to follow the journey he himself took—learn as many skills as possible.

“I think the key is as much stage time as you can get. Get in acting and improv classes, do things that scare you, that’s where the growth is,” Garrett said. “Stand-up is such a wonderful craft. At the end of the day, you’re all alone up there. You’re your own director, producer and sometimes your own audience.”

Garrett is a mainstay on the stage, as well as the big and small screens, but as for a return to the show that made him a household name? Not likely.

“Ray [Romano] would never do it without the parents,” said Garrett of the possibility of an Everybody Loves Raymond reboot. Doris Roberts and Peter Boyle, who played Marie and Frank, passed away in 2016 and 2006, respectively. “I understand that. Reboots rarely work, it’s almost impossible to recapture it. The writers stopped Raymond after year nine…they didn’t want the audience to feel like we stayed around too long. I think they did it right.”

Also see Brad Garrett’s notable voice roles:

Brad Garrett: The Man Behind The Voice

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