Howie Mandel and the Fuel of Life

April 2, 2023

Photo Credit

Wendi San George


Valerie Lopez


Lara Smith

2023 Moontower Just For Laughs Comedy Festival Series

The 2023 Moontower Just For Laughs Comedy Festival is blessing us with 2 weeks of comedy, film, live podcast, and afterparties. Comedy Wham is featuring our favorite conversations from this year's festival. Enjoy!

You might think you know who Howie Man­del is, but I chal­lenge you to dig deep­er and get to know the man behind the 40+ year com­e­dy career, to under­stand that he goes beyond standup, and he might just be my guru. Com­e­dy Wham’s Valerie Lopez recent­ly sat down with Man­del via Zoom in antic­i­pa­tion of his upcom­ing Moon­tow­er Just for Laughs appear­ance April 19th, and the wis­dom he impart­ed could’ve saved vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty and shame researcher Brené Brown a lot of time. Pair that with the tenac­i­ty and ener­gy lev­el that makes Tony Robins look like Cart­man from South Park and you might be clos­er to the mark. 

What’s inter­est­ing is how authen­tic­i­ty has giv­en Man­del all of his big breaks. Man­del explains, Every­thing I was ever expelled for, got­ten in trou­ble for, angered peo­ple with, is what I seem to get paid with.” Get­ting on stage in the first place was dri­ven by Mandel’s ADHD, he explains, “…. part of that is… kind of act­ing on impulse and not think­ing of the ram­i­fi­ca­tions… and that’s why I was on stage. You should go on stage… Okay! ‘” Many of the man­ner­isms and bits we remem­ber and love as Mandel’s stage per­sona were born out of his fears and his [now well pub­li­cized] OCD diag­no­sis. The gig­gling ner­vous laugh­ing man on stage? His nat­ur­al cop­ing mech­a­nism for stage fright. The rub­ber glove that we saw him inflate on his head? A glove he had always kept in his pock­et due to germa­pho­bia. Now these are part of the Man­del we love and expect, but they were craft­ed straight from the real­i­ty of his life. 

While those things were incor­po­rat­ed into his act, the audi­ence was not aware of the behind-the-scenes truth and strug­gle until years lat­er when Man­del was inad­ver­tent­ly out­ed on-air for his OCD and germa­pho­bia, dur­ing an appear­ance on The Howard Stern Show. Not real­iz­ing the inci­dent took place live ini­tial­ly, when it was revealed that mil­lions had just heard this very pri­vate mat­ter live, Man­del was dev­as­tat­ed. For­tu­nate­ly, that encounter quick­ly lead to hun­dreds of fans com­ing out of the shad­ows to empathize and thank him for help­ing them with the same struggles.

Everything I was ever expelled for, gotten in trouble for, angered people with, is what I seem to get paid with
Howie Mandel

Mandel’s phi­los­o­phy on life and com­e­dy is akin to the Nike Just Do It ad. While his ear­ly career had brought him fame on the hit St. Else­where, Bobby’s World, and even the voice of Grem­lins’ Giz­mo, fame can be a fick­le friend. Man­del went from sell­ing out are­nas in the 80s and 90s, to the ear­ly 2000s when his career had slowed to the point where he states, I couldn’t sell out…half a com­e­dy club.” It was at that time he was offered a host­ing spot on a game show, some­thing that seemed like the third rail to comics at the time. His wife advised him to do the show and Deal or No Deal became the deal that relaunched his career. Expe­ri­ences like this gave him the advice that he now imparts to oth­er comics, Nev­er say no, you know, no is N‑O, which is the first two let­ters and noth­ing. Noth­ing comes from no.” A lot of some­things came from Deal or No Deal, includ­ing Mandel’s judg­ing role on the ever-pop­u­lar show America’s Got Talent.

Anoth­er mantra that has aid­ed Man­del in his career and in life is remain­ing curi­ous. Man­del adds, Curios­i­ty is the fuel of life,” which shows in his per­for­mance as well as his incred­i­ble pod­cast, Howie Man­del Does Stuff,” which he cohosts with daugh­ter, Jack­e­lyn Shultz. While the show includes prank calls and chats about events and pop cul­ture, it also fea­tures some very deep and enlight­en­ing inter­views with a trea­sure trove of guests, includ­ing Brad Williams, Craig Robin­son, Joel McHale, and Jeff Ross.

Never say no, you know, no is N-O, which is the first two letters and nothing. Nothing comes from no
Howie Mandel

One mis­nomer from those famil­iar with the Howie Man­del of America’s Got Tal­ent fame, who may not be as well-versed in his standup, is that Man­del gives a clean net­work tele­vi­sion-safe per­for­mance on stage. Like the late great Bob Saget, who com­e­dy fans know was no Dan­ny Tan­ner on the mic, Mandel’s show is for adults (lis­ten and wait til you hear the ori­gins of Bobby’s World). While Man­del brings well-worked mate­r­i­al to the stage, his bread and but­ter and true love is crowd work Man­del adds, There are things I can do and things that I pre­pare, but I love to be tak­en off the beat­en path and have some­thing hap­pen in that moment, that time, that will nev­er hap­pen again.” Man­del once rearranged an audi­ence while a woman went to the restroom, only for her to return con­fused and search­ing for her seat. Genius. Man­del says, I’m more fas­ci­nat­ed by awk­ward, uncom­fort­able, real moments,” and those moments make for unfor­get­table com­e­dy. His last spe­cial was so audi­ence-inter­ac­tive that you KNOW no two shows will ever be the same.

See Howie Man­del at Moon­tow­er Just for Laughs at The Para­mount The­atre Wednes­day, April 192023

Fol­low Howie Mandel: 

Howie Man­del can be seen and heard:

Howie Mandel