“Howie Do It” premieres tonight on NBC.
Mandel’s new show features an odd assortment of pranks on unsuspecting “marks,” people who are looking for work, attending funerals and eating in restaurants.
Mandel dresses up disguised as “Larry” – donning sunglasses and a hairpiece over his trademark scalp.
Monsters and Critics spoke to “Howie Do It” star Howie Mandel and son Alex Mandel.
Howie Do It premieres on Friday, January 9 at 8:00.
Howie, describe this show
Howie Mandel: We have a phenomenal group of producers and writers but when we come up with ideas, and especially the idea that I’m involved with — they come from my biggest fears and what would affect me. This is a reality show. So in my reality, shaking hands is equivalent to jamming your finger in my soft drink or my cake.
So just because that was my horror I thought it would be interesting to see how people react if I was a waiter who had their finger in more than they should. I haven’t been a witness to somebody doing that but I’m sure there has been fingers in other things in foods that I have been served.
Howie, what is it like going out with you, do you point out things going on in the restaurants?
Howie Mandel: ‘Look what that waiter’s doing. Look where that waiter’s hand is’. I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize to my son publicly for making him more neurotic than he needs to be.
Alex, was your favorite present from your dad a latex glove; did you ever receive one?
Alex Mandel: Yeah, I mean, yeah, we have them all around the house.
Howie Mandel: Yeah but not for you. I didn’t give them to you. Those are my gifts to me. We actually have family photos where I’m wearing gloves and a surgical mask and just standing there proudly with my son. So, you know, as goofy as that sounds to you I think it’s the norm in Alex’s…
Alex Mandel: He’s given me some – more times than probably anyone has given their kids latex gloves. I don’t know if…
Howie Mandel: Yeah, probably. A lot of parents will probably say, “Hey don’t touch that. You don’t know where it’s been.” And I’ve said, “You can touch that but here’s a glove,” right?
Alex Mandel: Yes.
Alex, when you were growing up – did you ever feel you had to apologize for him when your friends came over?
Alex Mandel: Yeah, a lot.
Howie Mandel: Was I embarrassing?
Alex Mandel: All my friends loved him. I felt embarrassed for him but my friends loved him.
Howie Mandel: So then I was a normal dad? Dads should be embarrassing and I filled the role.
Is this show is more along the lines of Candid Camera pranks or Jackass styled pranks?
Howie Mandel: Candid Camera.
Candid Camera was my inspiration and that’s the first time I actually ever saw anything on TV and was inspired as far as comedy is concerned. You know, I have never been one to be entertained so much by a joke or even by an act.
But that was the first time where something was really funny because it was real like I was in on this joke and I was watching real people, you know, in these awkward situations. And that sparked me so much and I never had any inkling or thought of even getting into show business but even as a kid everything I was ever expelled for, hit for, punished for is what this show is about.
I got thrown out of school for hiring a contractor to put an addition onto the library and I didn’t have, obviously I didn’t have the authority but for me it wasn’t the addition the that was going to be – the bids that were – the humor was the – getting caught for it and having people very seriously trying to explain to me that this was not – I didn’t have the authority to do so.
So I’ve always done this and have been doing it for 30 years or so, as soon as I got a video camera. A lot of it has ended up on The Tonight Show and the Hidden Howies and on, you know, Regis and various other HBO specials. So now that NBC and Global have been nice enough to give me the opportunity to do it, full time as a real show rather than just a hobby that’s exactly what it is.
And in this show nobody gets hurt. It’s good family viewing. And it’s just fun, relatable comedy where it gives you a very visceral reaction where you can go, “Oh my God, I can’t believe he believes that or she believes that. I can’t believe they’re going along with this.” Or, you put yourself in that position. You decide, I wouldn’t do that but you would. And I know that I would. There is nothing that is being done that we do on the show that I can’t see myself almost acting exactly like the – we call them the mark reacts.
So, Alex, before Ashton Kutcher and Johnny Knoxville there was Allen Funt. Have you been doing your homework?
Howie Mandel: No.
Alex Mandel: I’ve watched…
Howie Mandel: Alex and homework are never in the same – Allen Funt was the host of Candid Camera. Did you know that Alex? I don’t think you knew that, right?
Alex Mandel: I think I did but only because you showed me the old stuff.
Howie Mandel: Yeah, I show…
Howie Mandel: I always show him the old stuff but I don’t think that he was aware of Allen Funt himself. But you know what Candid Camera is, right?
Alex Mandel: Yeah of course.
Howie Mandel: And I’ve showed you all the old black and white things and for us that’s great family viewing. And, that’s what inspired me. That’s what probably my biggest influence in comedy is even in my standup.
Follow-up to the food question: Do you have a limited list of restaurants that you go to because they understand your predicament and are very fastidious about the way they handle your food and how it’s presented to you?
Howie Mandel: Well, we live here in Los Angeles, California and in Los Angeles, California we’re lucky enough that we have a rating system that is on the door. I don’t know if they have that in any other state.
But, you get the A. I won’t go to anything below an A.
And I’m a creature of habit so I go to the same places all the time. But if I witness anything then I’m out of there in a heartbeat. And I’m not rude and I’m not mean. Something came up and then I’m out.
God forbid I should notice like a cold sore or somebody should sniff while they’re taking my order.
I can’t tell you how many times I actually miss a meal.
Howie, is it getting worse or better with age?
Howie Mandel: I actually, on a serious note suffer from OCD…
Howie Mandel: …age doesn’t – it doesn’t get better or worse. It has ebbs and flows…there are times when it is worse and times when it’s not. And I never know what the trigger is going to be.
So to answer your question, no. But, I’m highly functioning; I’m doing well. And, I’m happy at the moment and I’m supported by great family and loved ones and I get help when I need it, and I attend therapy and do whatever I need.
Howie, could go into detail a little bit about the different disguises that you’re going to be wearing on the show?
Howie Mandel: Well that’s the whole point of our show. There aren’t ridiculous disguises. And it’s very, very little disguise. I want it to seem as real as possible.
And I’m not, knocking anybody that does things with disguises on but that’s now what the bit is about. Ultimately the mark — and that’s the person that we target in any of these predicaments — is the star of the show like they were on Candid Camera.
And if you remember Candid Camera, Allen Funt, beyond wearing a hat or just some glasses or just being given a mundane name, it’s the predicament and the person that is the star.
So I don’t pull focus or pull any attention by wearing, a funny getup or a funny – it’s just so out of context for these people that there may be somebody that looks a little like Howie Mandel or sounds a little bit like Howie Mandel but obviously in the middle of this restaurant it isn’t Howie Mandel.
So if you have a hat or a little wig or a pair of glasses we try really hard to not have exotic or over the top – we want it just to be really real. I don’t want anybody to stand close enough so it looks like there’s a moustache glued on. There won’t be a moustache glued on.
So it’s all very real.
What kind of reactions have you gotten from people?
Howie Mandel: This is a good fun family show and everybody – no matter how awkward it was – it got in the middle of any situation, they were always pleasantly surprised and thrilled to be part of it.
And it’s always my policy, if anybody felt uncomfortable about anything they did or how they were portrayed I would not put them on television. Obviously they sign releases but even if they signed a release and they didn’t want to be seen in that light I wouldn’t put them on television.
That being said, that never happens. Nobody ever said they didn’t want to be part of it. So it’s really good-natured, fun, television.
Alex, have you ever pulled a prank on your dad that worked?
Alex Mandel: Yes I have. I can’t think of one in particular. I do – he liked to embarrass me but that was because he knew I wasn’t going to ever get mad because it was just something I grew up with.
He always, in restaurants and stuff whenever I make a comment he made sure the comment was known to the waiter and stuff like that just to kind of embarrass me but it was always fun like that.
And I would try to get him back any way I can. Usually it was against his OCD because that was what I knew would always get him back. But I find ways to get him back but it’s always fun though. He’s been doing it my whole life and I’ve been trying to get him back my whole life. It’s fun though. It’s like a big game..
What’s been your finest moment, your legendary biggest get?
Howie Mandel: You know, and the truth is that I don’t have one big get. there are stories that I tell, it started in school and having people out there to give bids on an addition to the learning resources center, to – in the late 60s and early 70s throwing a chocolate bar in the pool, pre-Caddy Shack, you know.
And having them empty out the pool to – and I didn’t have an audience. In those days I think it was — and still is — the focus of any child’s life is to kind of fit in and not to stand out.
You want to dress like everybody, sound like everybody, look like everybody and I didn’t. And lo and behold I wasn’t a social – I wasn’t a social winner; I wasn’t really invited to parties and didn’t have a lot of friends. But as luck would have it, it turned into a career as an adult so it’s great.
But, everything we do – and the things we’re doing on this show are bigger and better than anything I’ve ever done. And some of the upcoming episodes and working with my son, I don’t know how many of the pieces you’ve seen with Alex. I mean, you dream about, Alex has always wanted to be in show business and I really didn’t let him really apply himself until he was 18 years old. I figured it was – it’s not healthy to go and get a job as a child. You only have so long to have no responsibilities.
And I said, “At 18 if you want to make that decision then I will help you and do whatever I can if you’ve found a passion as long as you continue in college and go to college.” And he is attending college and studying theater.
But you’re just standing on the set taking your son to work and watching him, the next generation, my baby boy, prank somebody else; that is my shining moment. I don’t know if any other father would feel the pride that I felt that he was able to prank a perfect stranger, but it was just – it was just a wonderfully, emotionally, funny great moment.
I don’t know what pieces you’ve seen but he’s in a bunch of pieces and we just, you know, and I’ve been viewing them each and every day because obviously we’re in post-production and editing. So those are my greatest moments, watching my son do it.