Thursday, October 20, 2011
From St. Elsewhere and the voice of Gizmo in Gremlins to standup comedy and host of Deal or No Deal, Howie Mandel has tackled just about every facet of the entertainment biz. But at the end of the day, he still lives for getting up on stage, connecting with an audience and telling jokes.
“Standup comedy for me has been the one constant in my career,” he says. “It’s always been my primal scream and it’s the one thing that has no limits and no boundaries. It’s just me.”
The Ontario, Canada-born Mandel – who’s been a touring comedian since the early ’80s – is known for his oddball characters and wacky gags, like putting a latex glove on his head and inflating it with his nostrils until it propels itself off his head. (He had to cut that from his act after his doctor diagnosed him with a perforated sinus.) But the more laughter he gets, the goofier his act becomes.
“Much of what I do is very improvisational, in the moment and interactive,” he says. “At first I was terrified and contorting and throwing a glove on my head, but I tried to make myself as fearful as possible and not having a plan and look at it like a giant party where I’m trying to be the center of attention.”
While standup remains a constant, life as a television personality enjoys comparable stability for him: He’s getting ready to start his third season as a judge for America’s Got Talent and will kick off a new series Nov. 23 on Fox called Mobbed.
“It’s a cross between Punk’d and Glee,” Mandel says. “I’m fascinated by flash mobs, so I thought, ‘What if you had a secret to share with someone that would change their life and the person is taken to a crowded place and unbeknownst to them, a minimum of 1,000 people break the news through song and dance?’”
In addition to being a do-it-all entertainer, Mandel has become famously known for having obsessive-compulsive disorder and mysophobia (a fear of germs). He even named his book, Here’s the Deal: Don’t Touch Me. He almost always refuses to shake hands with anyone unless he is wearing latex gloves, opting to offer “fist bumps” instead.
“I have a terrific therapist and as I speak to you I’m medicated,” Mandel says. “I work hard each and every day to cope. I say in my book: ‘If [OCD] was a gift, I’d love to return it.’ Some people have said it’s become synonymous with me and I make jokes about it and I talk about it my act, but I certainly can come up with other things to talk about if I didn’t have that. I’m honest and that’s who I am. It informs every waking moment of my life, so to not talk about it now would be remiss.”
Mandel also struggles openly with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and says that sitting down to write a book was one of the hardest things he’s ever done. But he also credits his ADHD as one of the forces behind his ever-changing, diverse profession.
“I don’t know if I can function just doing one thing at any given time,” he says.
If he were forced to, however, it’s hard to imagine that one thing would be anything other than standup.
“At the end of the day, standup is that one piece of art where I don’t have to recite a certain line, I don’t have to go to a commercial and there’s nothing I can’t do,” he says. “It’s pure autonomy and I would never give it up.”
HOWIE MANDEL performs at 8pm Thursday, Oct. 20, at Sunset Center, San Carlos at Ninth, Carmel. $53; $69; $79. 620-2048.