“As you all probably know, I’m a germaphobe. I’m also a hypochondriac. When your foot is itchy, what do you do? You scratch it right?!? Not me. I call 9-1-1.” Howie Mandel summed up his life with these six sentences and managed to get a round of applause and uproarious laughter from the crowd in the packed, intimate NYCB Theater at Westbury in New York.
For the uninitiated, Howie Mandel is a Canadian-born comedian, actor, television host and voice actor. He is currently a judge on NBC’s reality talent contest program America’s Got Talent. He has also hosted the NBC game show Deal or No Deal, appeared on the NBC medical drama St. Elsewhere as the somewhat “out there” ER intern Dr. Wayne Fiscus, and was the creator and star of the children’s cartoon Bobby’s World. In 2009, Mandel hosted the 2009 Game Show Awards on GSN. During the course of his career, Mandel voiced Bunsen Honeydew, Animal and Skeeter on Muppet Babies, hosted his own syndicated talk show, starred or appeared in numerous movies and television shows, as well as performed his stand-up comedy across the world.
Mandel has mysophobia (a pathological fear of contamination/germs). His condition is so severe that he does not shake hands with anyone, unless he is wearing latex gloves. Instead of shaking hands when they are offered, Mandel has been known to exchange fist pounds and offer the occasional hug. Though he now takes medication to control his phobia, Mandel often makes himself and his condition the butt of his own jokes.
Returning to the Long Island area on Friday, March 11, 2016, it was an unseasonably warm evening following a record setting high temperature day. The evening began with a short, but hysterical set by John Mendoza. Mendoza riffed on many of the usual topics with a good-natured conversational approach. Mendoza talked about skydiving, relationships, kids, ugly people, and his family. He offered many quips and observations. One of the best was, “Ugly people don’t know they’re ugly. I was at a party. My friend said to me, ‘Would you look at that ugly piece of crap over there?’ I said, ‘That’s a mirror. That’s you!'”
As quickly as Mendoza appeared, he was gone, and just as quickly, Mandel was on stage. It was almost as though they passed each other on the ramp to and from the main stage. Mandel began by simply stating that, “It’s great to be in New York. My life is filled with awkwardness and fucked-up times and I’ve had more of them in New York than anywhere else.” He then talked about his itchy foot and how his doctor directed him to buy Lamisil to treat his athlete’s foot. Mandel went on to explain that he discovered that the cream was also used to treat jock itch. He said that he, “Called the Lamisil hotline, which was 1-800-ITCHYNUTS. Who the hell puts a woman on the line for problems with your balls? She tells me that Lamisil is the same thing that they use for both jock itch and athlete’s foot. So I’m on line at Duane Reade buying NUT CREAM. And people are coming up to me, so I’ve got to figure out how to not make a spectacle of myself. So I grab some Doritos and a few other things in addition to the Nut Cream. The line took forever and I’m sure that everyone noticed the Lamisil.”
He continued to riff on that same story, but wound up getting interrupted by audience members on a number of occasions. An audience member offered Mandel her phone, saying that her daughter was calling. When a doctor’s supervisor called him during the performance, Mandel took the phone and answered the call. After answering the phone call from the supervisor and talking to the daughter on the cellphone, Mandel quipped that the night was, “Like the worst telethon I’ve ever been involved with. I was on for four minutes and I started taking calls.”
After a joke about a hedgehog, one member of the audience commented that she did not know what a hedgehog was, while another audience member called out from across the venue that she had a picture of one on her phone. Mandel did not miss a beat. He made the two women walk to each other so they could share the photo with each other. Mandel even commented that the evening’s crowd was, “The strangest I’ve ever seen.” He repeated this a few times and it was far from part of the act; he actually believed it.
None of the shenanigans from the audience kept Mandel from providing the crowd with an evening of sustained laughter and joy. He covered many topics including menopause, prostate exams, doctors (returning a number of times to a young audience member who was a junior ambulance driver), and his wife, while offering many other hysterical stories about his high school years, the origins of the character Bobby, and his other voice-over work.
Mandel asked a guy in the crowd, who was sporting an ASU hoodie, if he was, “A dyslexic from America.” When the guy responded that he was not, Mandel then asked what the letter on the sweatshirt stood for. The guy responded, “Arizona State University.” Mandel said, “Oh. I guess you can see how I might think differently.” When a member of the crowd yelled something unintelligible at Mandel, he turned and asked, “Was there a 10% off coupon for those with tourette’s?” He paused and again mentioned that the crowd that evening was a very “different” one.
As the evening drew to a close, Mandel introduced the crowd to his friend, Howard Stern cast member, Ronnie The Limo Driver, and his girlfriend, Stephanie, who Mandel explained had just gotten engaged. After a huge round of applause, Mandel announced, “I actually finished my show five minutes ago…I’m not going. I’m staying. I want you guys to leave.” He then did another ten minutes of a hilarious and side-splitting shtick. Earlier in the evening, Mandel made reference to the fact that a great way to punctuate a joke was to jump, stamping your feet, mug to the audience, and say, “Ta-da.”
On this evening, his last statement was, “I can think of no better way to sign off than this!” At that moment, he jumped and stamped his feet, mugged to the audience, and said, “Ta-da.” The audience cheered. Mandel thanked everyone. The lights dimmed and the comedian left the stage. When the lights came up again, the folks in the crowd, almost to a member, were wearing happy grins on their faces as they filed out of the intimate arena. For those who missed this appearance, Mandel will be back on April 9th across the Long Island Sound at The Grand Theater at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut with Nick Cannon so pick up tickets now.