June 8 (UPI) — Howie Mandel is thrilled people love watching his TV shows with their families, but warned his standup comedy shows, which are full of profanity and sex jokes, aren’t for kids.
Mandel, 63, has been a judge on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” for 10 years. Season 2 of his funny-video series, “Animals Doing Things,” is set to premiere on Nat Geo Wild Saturday, and his game show, “Deal or No Deal,” will return with fresh episodes on CNBC on Wednesday.
Despite that busy schedule, Mandel performs his stand-up act dozens of times a year around the country, and he recently released via video-on-demand his first new comedy special in 20 years — “Howie Mandel Presents Howie Mandel at the Howie Mandel Club.”
“‘AGT,’ ‘Deal or No Deal’ and ‘Animals Doing Things’ are all great family viewing. I wouldn’t download my special for kids,” Mandel told UPI in a phone interview. “For people who love these cute, family co-viewing things, this is very different content-wise.”
He often is surprised when people show up with small children to see him perform at theaters or casinos because they are fans of his TV work.
“I go, ‘Wait, wait, wait, wait!’ Because I don’t want to edit myself,” he said. “I usually have people make announcements and signs. I am very cognizant of that. I didn’t allow my own children to see my act until they were 18.”
Stand-up is Mandel’s favorite thing to do, mainly because it allows him to live in the moment and improvise. The immediate feedback he gets is satisfying, and the interactions he has with audience members help him be a better game-show host and talent judge.
“I get a sense of who people really are and it allows me to be outside of Los Angeles and New York and just be in front of people and see what they relate to and what they respond to,” he said. “It’s just the most freeing, primal scream at the end of the day.”
When Canadian native Mandel arrived in the 1970s Los Angeles comedy scene, he had the amazing opportunity to see the late, great Richard Pryor hone his act.
“I watched his work ethic and I watched him find that line, cross over that line and then read the audience and figure out where it would sit,” he said, noting Pryor was one of the first comedians to really tackle issues like drug use and sex in his act.
“It was pretty jaw-dropping stuff, which later on, it doesn’t seem to be as taboo, and now everything’s taboo because people take things out of context,” he said, referring to how many audience members record snippets of standup shows and post them on social media.
Gone are the days where a comedian had the “safety net” of saying, “It was just a joke,” and apologizing for offending someone by going too far.
“Today, a little thing like that could ruin your career. You could be dropped in a heartbeat from any show you are on or every show you are on. When I’m living on stage, I don’t think about it, but as soon as I say, ‘Good night,’ I think: ‘What the hell did I just do? Did I say anything that is going to piss somebody off?’ I live in fear that I didn’t have before.”
Being a good, well-intentioned person doesn’t always help someone facing a backlash, either, he said, pointing as an example to Gilbert Gottfried, who lost work after tweeting a tasteless joke about a deadly tsunami several years ago.
“The problem is a lot of the people I know who have lost things are fundamentally decent,” he said.
Beauty, humanity of AGT
When he’s not touring, the comedian enjoys being “a small piece of the beauty and the humanity” of “AGT,” a show that is in the business of making aspiring performers’ dreams come true.
“In the course of one episode, you will laugh, you will cry, you will scream, you will be confused. Every possible human emotion is packed into one show,” he said. “The word ‘variety’ should be more about the emotions we elicit rather than what you are watching.”
Mandel was a fan of “AGT” long before he was hired as a panelist.
“The first four years, I was on a couch in my underpants watching at home and they’ve given me pants and a paycheck and it’s even better to be in the room,” he said, adding he hopes to stay with “AGT” for as long as the producers will have him.
Terry Crews is the current host of “AGT.” Mandel’s fellow judges include Simon Cowell, Julianne Hough and Gabrielle Union.
“AGT,” “Animals Doing Things” and “Deal or No Deal” are all shows that entertain and provide opportunities for people, but Mandel said he doesn’t consciously look for projects with that common thread.
“I don’t seek anything. Things come my way,” he said. “I don’t think about ramifications or anything. I think the biggest problem humanity has is overthinking things.”
Famous for voicing characters in the original “Muppet Babies” cartoon series and the “Gremlins” blockbusters, Mandel also is trying to bring back his 1990s animated show, “Bobby’s World.” The show would have a built in fan-base since many of the original viewers are now parents themselves.
“It’s a known brand that you want to pass on to your kids,” he said.