Howie Mandel's Got Talent (and OCD): 'I'm a Professional Neurotic'
By Nicki Gostin Posted Jun 27th 2011 10:37PM
Howie Mandel is back as one of the triumvirate of judges on NBC's top-rated variety show 'America's Got Talented.' The Canadian funnyman spoke to PopEater about his style of judging on the show and defends the quirky acts that tend to do so well. He also fills us in on a new show he's working on about flash mobs and what it's like to be a 200-nights-a-year stand-up while simultaneously maintaining a life as a germophobe with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Before we get to the Qs and the As, a few Wow, I'm sorry, How moments:
► If he has a stand-up gig west of the Mississippi, Howie flies privately back to L.A.; If it's in the northeast, he'll fly to Toronto.
► Why you always see him fist-bumping: "I can hug, I can't shake hands. I can't get past the hands. I know it makes no sense."
► His fear of becoming too much like Howard Hughes: "I'm really not that far from him. I live on the edge and I can see without the therapy and medicine how that's not so far fetched."
So it's a new season of 'America's Got Talent.' Are we going to see something "stupid" or "normal" win this year?
Well what is normal? The beauty of our show, I think is, there are so many shows out there in the same genre of ours where you know exactly what you're going to see next. What I love more than anything about our show is I have absolutely no idea what's coming up next. Sometimes those something-stupids are the biggest money makers and the biggest ticket sellers we have in our nation. Those something-stupids are called Cirque de Soleil and Blue Man Group.
I actually don't always understand the message I'm supposed to receive. Originally the circus was an elephant would come out, then a trapeze act. I don't know why the trapeze act is always a family. It just doesn't seem like a real family business putting family members in peril. Cirque de Soleil came and had a story to tell us, I'll be totally honest, I don't always understand the story but I am truly fascinated by the death defying positions people are willing to put themselves into number one, to entertain me and number two the amount of time and effort that goes into perfecting this. I think about when it wasn't perfect, how many members of this family have been lost? How many injuries have been incurred?
You're a stand-up comic. A lot of people would consider that a terrifying job.
And that's why as a judge I have a lot of empathy for anyone who just shows up. And I'm fascinated by quirkiness. I love originality. I crave it and I watch it on TV. My TV is on 24 hours a day, I'll watch a non-English speaking infomercial. I will sit for hours on the internet watching Youtube.
Ever feel like you sound really crass on the show because Sharon and Piers have posh accents?
No, but I sometimes feel jealous because I believe when Piers says something, even though I may totally disagree with it, but with that accent he can sell it because it sounds like he knows what he's talking about. You want your neurosurgeon to have an English accent where as if you have a rural Southern accent you can be the most brilliant person in the world, it's not going to sell as well.
What else are you working on?
I also have a show on FOX called 'Mobbed.' About five years ago I came upon the flash mobs, you know when people break into dance in public areas and I thought how can this be a show? I thought what if you had an intimate message that you wanted to share with someone that would change your and their lives forever. The easiest being a proposal but maybe coming out of the closet to your family or quitting your job or apologizing. What if we secretly planned the biggest most extravagant way where we could take that person who was to receive that message to a public area and unbeknownst to them thousands of people break out into a huge musical. This is TV without a net. We did one and it was a proposal. It aired after 'Idol' and they've ordered 10 so I'm in production on that. (If anybody has a message they want to share publicly go here.)
Oh sorry I know this is going to sound tacky but I have to buzz my mum in. Can you hold on for a sec? (A few moments later). I'm so, so sorry.
You don't have to apologize. I love how you say, 'I don't want to sound tacky but I have to let mother in.' Like usually I would just leave her outside but I got to do this crazy thing because she wants to come in. And you're so embarrassed you can't stop apologizing for letting your mother in.
Are you worried about bedbugs in hotel rooms?
When those outbreaks happen and it hits the news I garner comfort in going, 'Uh uh now the world is coming over to my side.' I love that everybody's paranoid and taking precautions. I've been sleeping in a cocoon and not touching the comforters as it was so I've been safe. I check really closely. I travel with a magnifying glass, a black light. I don't touch their sheets. I take mine, everything is sealed in plastic. I take towels and make a path. I'm a professional neurotic.
It's not wow, it's How.
Do you still do stand-up?
200 days a year.
I'm fascinated by that, because you have a serious problem with germs and yet you continue to put yourself in stressful environments like hotel rooms.
This side of the Mississippi I fly back on the same night. If I'm in the northeast I have my own place up in Toronto where I stay. That's not to say I don't stay in hotels but I'm very particular on where I stay and how I stay. For the most part I live on a plane and I'll fly privately because of my phobia with germs.
I think it's important for me to be out there, outside of New York and Los Angeles. I really keep my finger on the pulse on what is tickling the fancy of the public. It's either to do it when you're in Iowa or when you're in L.A. think and wonder if people in Iowa would like that.
Do you shave your head for cleanliness?
I did it originally for a movie, not one I was in, I was going to watch one and I didn't want to block people's view with my curly jewfro. No, I did it for a part in a movie but it felt so clean and now I have more of my face to wash.
Can you relate to Howard Hughes?
Sadly I do, he functioned and did well in life and it scares me as depicted in the DiCaprio movie, he's in a room at the end naked and peeing in bottles. I've said this many times before I'm really not that far from him. I live on the edge and I can see without the therapy and medicine how that's not so far fetched. That's almost terrifying. I can hug, I can't shake hands. I can't get past the hands. I know it makes no sense.
Boy you'd fit right into Japan. No handshaking, lots of bowing.
I love Japan! I feel like I'm a short Asian man trapped in a goofy Jewish body.
Hey thanks for speaking to me Howie.
I know this is going to sound tacky but I have to go feed my kids now.
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