04/28/2008 at 01:00 AM EDT
As Brad Garrett offers a tour of his modern, glass-walled Malibu beach home, it is evident that he's all about his kids. Besides the pet lizards, dogs, birds and hamsters in residence, there's the screening room for movie night, the craft room—"nothing but glitter!" he quips—and a massive kitchen where the 6'8" actor dedicates himself to furthering peanut butter and jelly cuisine. He does PB&J on bagels, on wheat, on sourdough. Don't the kids ever tire of it? "Never!" says daughter Hope, 8. "On sourdough is the best."
A recent Saturday finds him cheering on Hope at a horse show and son Max, 9, at Little League. Besides that, the unattached, divorced dad is wide open. "My social life is like my film career—I'm picky, and I'm not in demand," jokes Garrett, 48, who is, in fact, a much-in-demand TV star who gracefully navigated from playing the put-upon brother Robert on Everybody Loves Raymond to the put-upon husband on the FOX comedy 'Til Death. (Season 2 returns April 24.) He tapes the show for five days, and "weekends are committed to my children." He and their mom, Jill Diven, a homemaker, split in April 2006 and now share custody. "I was a child of divorce, and the toughest thing kids deal with is feeling they have to choose," he says. "My ex-wife is a great gal, and we put the kids first. I'm proud of our situation."
Only lately has he thought of adding romance to the picture. "Four months ago, I would have said I'm better off alone. But I have to be honest—" and here, rather than get too emotional, Garrett breaks into faked sobs and a little comic business—"I'm so [expletive] lonely! It's me! I'm a complicated guy. I wouldn't want to be my own waiter, let alone my own wife!"
But seriously. "Love's out there, and it's a wonderful thing," he says. So for the right woman, there is a very tall, very funny, slightly "neurotic" (his word) single dad who can't cook. Anything else? "He used to have a huge Afro!" Max says, and proves it with a disco-era photo of his dad, swiped from the grand piano. As the boy exits the room, father and son exchange easygoing I love yous. Says Garrett: "I'm a lucky camper."