Star of America’s got Talent returns to celebrate 30 years of laughter with Just For Laughs with his July 28 Gala

Howie Mandel is a key figure on the hit show America’s Got Talent. Prior to this show – Mandel was the host of another prime time block buster; Deal of No Deal.

His career in comedy and acting may have all started when he was expelled from his Toronto high school. Why? He had convinced a local contractor that he was a member of the school board, and yes, the Board wanted construction to begin on the new extension to the school…right away!

In reality, his career in comedy and show business would wait for a few more years. “Growing up in a middle class Jewish family in Toronto, I was so far from show business – so far from comedy.”

His formal education finished, Howie went on to become a carpet salesman, and would later open his own carpet store. He became a stand-up comic at Yuk Yuk’s in Toronto, and was so popular with the audiences that by 1978 he had a week-long booking. At the same time his carpet business was flourishing, and by 1979 he had several stores in the Toronto area.

It was during a business trip to Los Angeles that Howie decided to combine a little pleasure with his business agenda. One evening he and some friends went to The Comedy Store. It was an open mike amateur night; and at the urging of some friends, he got up onstage and did part of the routine he had used at Yuk Yuk’s. “I thought it was a great opportunity to make a fool of myself 3,000 miles away from home.” The club’s management offered him a trial set – the audiences loved him – and he soon became a regular performer. It was at The Comedy Store that Howie caught the attention of a producer for Make Me Laugh – a comedy television game show. And just like in the movies, Howie was signed for several appearances during the show’s 1979 run. These appearances in turn led to bookings as the opening act for David Letterman during the summer of ’79.

The head of CBC television’s variety programming signed Howie for a TV special after seeing a performance in October of 1979. His career continued to fast forward, and Howie won a starring role in a Canadian movie Gas, which co-starred fellow Canadian Donald Sutherland and Susan Anspach.

Howie continued to develop his multifaceted career with the television series St. Elsewhere, in which he played Dr. Wayne Fiscus, a talented and dedicated surgeon. The show debuted in 1982, and continued for 6 seasons. In 1984 Howie provided the voice Gizmo in the hit horror movie Gremlins, and continued his film work as Maurice in the 1989 film Little Monsters.

His children’s television series Bobby’s World for Fox Broadcasting Company won an Emmy nomination, and was a successful animated program for 8 seasons. In addition to being the Executive Producer, Howie also did the voices for the title character Bobby, and Bobby’s Dad, for which he used his natural voice. Howie’s alter-ego “Bobby” is a still a fan-favourite in his live concerts.

While he has continuously enjoyed success as a live performer, playing over 200 dates per year, Howie had not received major national fame since the end of his role in St. Elsewhere. He was seriously considering leaving show business. This would change dramatically in December of 2005, with the first pilot show of Deal or No Deal on NBC. The show became a huge hit in 2006, and catapulted Howie to international recognition. As host of Deal or No Deal Canada, Howie was one of the few game show personalities to host a domestic and international version of the show.

Howie married Terry Soil, his high school sweetheart in 1980, and unlike many Hollywood stars, the couple is still married with 3 children, Alex, Jackie and the youngest – Riley. His kids haven’t always appreciated their father’s profession. One day while driving along a crowded Los Angeles freeway, son Alex commented about a friend’s father who owned a successful car dealership. “Josh’s dad sells lots of cars – all you do is tell jokes.” So much for star power on the home front!

The happy-go-lucky comic overcame the challenges of psychological disorders that require constant surveillance

Mandel performs over 200 dates a year. What makes this somewhat extraordinary is that Howie has to live with two major psychological disorders. He has an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and also has phobia about germs, a condition called mysophobia. The latter is so pronounced that he does not shake hands with anyone, including show contestants. Instead, he will grasp the contestant by the arm or shoulder, or if shaking hands is absolutely necessary, he’ll wear surgical gloves. One of the manifestations of his mysophobia is his now trademark shaved head. This has nothing to do with hair loss or fashion, but rather that without hair he feels cleaner. Medication and counselling have helped to control these disorders to the extent that he can function in the hectic world of the entertainment business.

The producers of America’s Got Talent asked Howie to take the place of Davis Hasselhoff; and in January 2010 Howie took his seat as the third judge. The entire process of taping and auditions is fan-interactive, and there are times when Howie’s phobias are a challenge for him. Still – he enjoys the dynamism and spontaneity of the show.

Howie Mandel will be hosting a Gala Performance with a star-studded cast that includes Gerry Dee, Wendy Liebman and J Chris Newberg at the Just For Laughs Festival, July 28 at 7pm. For ticket information, please call: 514-845-2322 or online at: Enjoy!

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