Beyond being one of the most successful stand-up comedians of the last 40 years, Howie Mandel is also an Emmy-winning producer, top-rated television host, and acclaimed actor. While many millions of people have continually watched Mandel on hit shows like “Deal or No Deal” and “America’s Got Talent,” not all of those loyal viewers realize Mandel’s long-term success as a stand-up comic. In turn, Mandel is aiming to change that with “Howie Mandel presents Howie Mandel at the Howie Mandel Comedy Club,” his first solo stand-up special in 20 years.
“Howie Mandel presents Howie Mandel at the Howie Mandel Comedy Club” – indeed filmed at the Atlantic City, New Jersey, comedy venue owned by Mandel – was interestingly produced with Comedy Dynamics. Founded by director Brian Volk-Weiss, Comedy Dynamics is producing the upcoming reboot of “Mad About You” beyond recent collaborations with Tiffany Haddish, Kevin Hart, Aziz Ansari, Jim Gaffigan, Ali Wong and David Cross; all five albums nominated in the “Best Comedy Album” category for the 61st Annual Grammy Awards were released by Comedy Dynamics. Mandel’s new special will be released via the Comedy Dynamics network on iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, Dish, DirecTV and Comcast on April 23rd, while the album will be released April 26 on iTunes, Google Play and Spotify.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Howie Mandel by phone and highlights from the chat are below. The full chat with the comedy legend will be featured on a future edition of the “Paltrocast With Darren Paltrowitz” podcast via PureGrainAudio.com.
Jewish Journal: Did you know all along that the special was going to be filmed at your comedy club?
Howie Mandel: Did I know? I did. It was my idea… The Hard Rock [Hotel] was nice enough to open the Howie Mandel Comedy Club on July 4 of last year and they said, “Would you like to come to the opening?” I said, “Not only would I like to come to the opening, I’d like to be on the stage and I would like to tape it and maybe it’ll be my first time back on television doing standup in 20 years.”
JJ: Was that the first time that anyone had ever asked you to be a partner in a comedy club?
HM: Yeah… I’ve never been asked to be a partner in a comedy club. I spent my entire career going, “Can I just have a couple of minutes on-stage at your comedy club?” Now I have my own. And I still ask people to allow me, you know, five minutes on their stage, even though I tour and I’m doing over 100, 150 dates a year in theaters and casinos and arenas…
That’s how I write. I will drop in on the local comedy club at one o’clock in the morning, at midnight or anything still open and say, “Hey can I just have a couple of minutes?”… But now I have my own club, so I can.
JJ: Your stand-up is very improv-based. So how does that come into play when you’re doing a special?
HM: It’s very improvisational, which is the bigger issue… A lot of people — especially when you haven’t been on TV doing stand-up for 20 years — know me from “America’s Got Talent” and from “Deal or No Deal,” which are very family-friendly home-viewing shows. Because I’m very improvisational and hence don’t edit it for the whole family, kids shouldn’t listen. Not that I go down a dark lane of anything that is dirty, but you know my language and my subject matter can veer in that neighborhood. And the truth of the matter is with a comedy special I didn’t have to stick to any particular time or worry about that… It’s edited so I can make the show any length I want when it airs and it’s my club. There were no rules. It was my house, my rules.
JJ: You haven’t slowed down the number of gigs that you do per year in stand-up but it had been 20 years or so since you’d done a standup special. What was it that made you realize that it was time? Was it having the comedy club?
HM: No, it was a plethora of people, you know? I mean, “America’s Got Talent,” which is probably the number one show on television as far as the size of the audience and “Deal or No Deal” was relaunching and people were coming up to me and saying to me, “You know I saw an old tape, you should do stand-up again.” Or “I used to love you as a stand-up comic.”. And I realized there’s a whole generation of people that have never ever seen me and don’t even identify me as a stand-up comic. And the truth of the matter is I personally identify as a stand-up comic first and then I’m on TV doing other things, but stand-up comedy has always been the one staple in my career.
JJ: One of my favorite projects that you worked on was the Adam Carolla movie “Road Hard” where you really showed a different side of yourself. That’s not the kind of side that you show when you’re doing one of your competition shows or hosting a game show. Did you have any hesitance to show in that side of yourself?
HM: I love acting and I love portraying a character, and even though I played myself, it was a version of myself that I don’t know that’s myself. But I love acting. I spent six years on “St. Elsewhere” in the ‘80s, which is a dramatic show, and I’ve spent nine years as a little voice of Bobby in a booth for Saturday mornings for “Bobby’s World.” I like doing different things. The one thing I don’t suffer from in my career is boredom and that’s because all these opportunities present themselves for me to do different things even in the course of one day.
JJ: How much of your time is actually spent on creative endeavors? Are you the kind of person that sits down to write regularly?
HM: I don’t write long form… I have ideas that I could speak into my phone and then hopefully along with a group of other talented people we can bring these ideas into fruition. I’m always producing and I’m behind the scenes on a lot of things that we sell and do. I like producing. I’m not a homework guy. I never did homework in school and I don’t do homework now.
JJ: Since this is for the Jewish Journal I was curious if you could share any memories about your bar mitzvah or that overall experience.
HM: That’s over 50 years ago, now 52 years ago. I know I must have said, “Today I am a man,” and I can truly say that I still am. I’ve spent most of my gift money, most of my bar mitzvah money has been spent. I don’t remember where I spent most of it… I was bar mitzvahed before people were doing themes. I think my theme was just, “Run around the room and get the envelopes.”
JJ: Over the years has your success led to you hosting or performing at any bar mitzvahs as private gigs?
HM: I have not done any bar mitzvahs or bar mitzvahs, but I do a lot of private gigs and fundraisers and I have been up at the pulpit many times doing my act, which I find fascinating… My act in that room, near the Torah, doesn’t seem, you know, right. But not that I care…You know, I have performed in temples and I perform fundraisers for Jewish organizations. And every time I do any of those, it feels like my bar mitzvah, because… I’m nervous in front of a crowd… I don’t know how it’s going to go or how I will be received in this room. Especially when I’m in a temple and they’re all sitting down looking at me and I have to follow a rabbi who introduces me, which has happened many times.
Sometimes the introductions by rabbis make it a little harder for me to do my comedy. I did a fundraiser for Holocaust survivors, a proponent of raising money and we must never forget. But in the introduction, the rabbi recounted very visually the atrocities of it and the losses of life in the Holocaust… He was going from 1939 to 1944, to the liberation in 1945, to 1979, me making my way to Hollywood… So that the Holocaust segues into my introduction, which made it a hard bridge to cross, to say the least
JJ: So in closing, any last words for the kids?
HM: Yeah, as Nike says, just do it. And that’s what it is. Everything I’ve ever been expelled for, punished for, getting in trouble for, is what I seem to get paid for today. I didn’t think it would amount to anything, but what was perceived as a problem as a child has become a career as an adult. So just do it.
More on Howie Mandel can be found online at www.howiemandel.com.