Also Credited As:Brad Gerstenfeld
|April 14, 1960|
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Born Brad Gerstenfeld on April 14, 1960 in Woodland Hills, CA, Garrett was one of three sons raised by Al Gerstenfield, a geriatrics specialist, and Barbara Colton. After graduating from El Camino Real High School in 1978, Garrett attended UCLA, but dropped out after two months to pursue his goal as a stand-up comic. The decision proved fruitful; after gaining his chops on the Los Angeles comedy club circuit, Garrett was the first grand prize winner in the comedy competition on "Star Search" (syndicated, 1983-1995). Garrett's knack for imitations and riffs on his own physical appearance - at the time of his win at age 23, he stood 6'8' - earned him not only mass appeal with TV audiences, but also a guest stint on "The Tonight Show" (NBC, 1954- ) with Johnny Carson. He was one of the youngest comedians to ever appear on the venerable talk show program.
The national exposure led to a lucrative string of opening slots on national tours with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Diana Ross, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Liza Minnelli. Television also began to beckon, with appearances on game shows like "Super Password" (NBC, 1984-89) and "Family Feud" (syndicated, 1988-1995). Garrett also began lending his expressive vocal talents to countless animated series, including "Transformers" (syndicated, 1984-87) and "Hulk Hogan's Rock 'n' Wrestling" (CBS, 1985-87), for which he voiced the title wrestling star. On the live action front, Garrett fared a little less successfully. His debut as a series star, "First Impressions" (CBS, 1988), for which he played a single father who worked as an impressionist, lasted just eight episodes. Garrett worked steadily throughout the 1990s on a variety of television projects and minor films. For the most part, he found regular employment as a voice performer in such animated projects as "Biker Mice from Mars" (UPN, 1993-96), but also appeared in guest spots on primetime shows like "Seinfeld" (NBC, 1989-1998) as an unhinged car mechanic, as well as a supporting role as the gay best friend to the series lead in the short-lived "The Pursuit of Happiness" (NBC, 1995-96).
In 1996, Garrett finally hit it big when he joined the cast of a new sitcom built around fellow stand-up comic Ray Romano and produced by David Letterman's company, Worldwide Pants. "Everybody Loves Raymond," was slow to gain an audience, but by the late-1990s, it was one of the most popular programs on television, thanks to its sharp writing, which harkened back to classic family sitcoms of the 1950s and 1960s, while retaining a smart and modern edge, as well as the interplay between its cast members, which included veteran actors Peter Boyle and Doris Roberts. Romano was clearly the star of the program, but audiences delighted in Garrett's portrayal of policeman Robert Barone (based loosely on aspects of two of Romano's real-life brothers), who desperately craved the attention and approval his parents showered on Ray. Despite his height, Barone also proved to be a nimble physical comic, but his slow burn and well-timed vocal explosions became one of the show's highlights. For his efforts on "Raymond," Garrett won three Emmys (2002, 2003, and 2005), and a Screen Actors Guild award for Best Ensemble in 2003.
The popularity of "Raymond" allowed Garrett to pursue larger and more substantial roles in film and television, and he scored personal and critical triumphs on several occasions. He landed supporting roles in Woody Allen's acclaimed feature, "Sweet and Lowdown" (1998), the Emmy-nominated showbiz drama "Club Land" (2001), for which he was top-billed with Alan Alda and Steven Weber, and enjoyed time on the big screen in the comedy hit "The Pacifier" (2005). Garrett also tackled the lead in "Gleason," a 2003 biopic of iconic TV comic Jackie Gleason, earning rave reviews as well as another Emmy nomination for his spot-on portrait. Garrett also continued his voiceover work in film and television, most notably as one of the aquarium fish who help reunite Nemo with his father in "Finding Nemo" (2003).
When "Raymond" closed shop in 2005, industry buzz centered briefly on the possibility of Garrett getting a spin-off series as Robert Barone. But by the end of that year, Garrett brought that option to an end when CBS was unable to come to any concrete plans for the series. He instead segued to a stint on Broadway in a revival of "The Odd Couple," which reunited "Producers" stars Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane, and appeared briefly as an Easter Island head in the Ben Stiller comedy hit, "Night at the Museum" (2006). He also enjoyed a supporting role as the manager of a faded pop star (Hugh Grant) in the likable romantic comedy, "Music and Lyrics" (2007), and gave voice to a legendary French chef who serves as spiritual advisor to a rat who aspires to culinary greatness in the Pixar animated film "Ratatouille" (2007). Garrett also showed off his prowess at poker by winning the fifth season championship of Bravo's "Celebrity Poker Showdown" (2004- ) and playing in the World Series of Poker in 2005 and 2006.
Garrett landed a series of his own with "'Til Death" (Fox, 2006-2010). A more acerbic take on the married-life sitcom, he starred as a put-upon high school teacher whose longtime marriage is called into sharp contrast by a pair of newlyweds who move next door. The show struggled in the ratings from day one, and appeared on the verge of cancellation at several junctures - a fact not lost on Garrett, who mined humor from the situation during a stand-up tour with Romano in 2007. His fears were realized when "'Til Death" was cancelled at the end of its fourth season, although by then the actor had already begun picking up guest spots on other series, such as the collegiate comedy "Glory Daze" (TBS, 2010- ). Always in demand for his distinctive baritone, Garrett lent his voice to Disney's animated retelling of the Rapunzel fairytale, "Tangled" (2010) and "Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil" (2011), for which he voiced the Giant.