Luxe Life Blog
Howie Mandel juggles new TV series, Venetian debut, longtime OCD fight
Behind all of Howie Mandel’s incredible TV successes lies a lifelong battle with the pain from obsessive-compulsive disorder. His struggle to combat its debilitating anxiety-inducing effects has meant years of medicine and therapy. He’s juggled that germaphobia openly and publicly and found comfort in his comedy and nonstop work schedule of TV hosting and standup tour dates.
This weekend, he heads into Las Vegas to perform for the first time at the Venetian. “I didn’t realize it was Halloween when we set the date,” Howie laughed. “I’m not going to change anything I do because every night in Vegas is Halloween. Outfits that would be considered costumes in some parts of the country seem to be normal wardrobe in Vegas.”
In addition to his Venetian debut, Howie also is getting ready for the Nov. 23 premiere of his hidden-camera series Mobbed -- airing on Fox after The X Factor -- for which he serves as producer and host.
“It’s Glee meets Punk’d,” he explained as he chatted by phone in Toronto, where he was on his never-ending standup comedy tour. “We have these huge musical flash mobs who appear just as somebody is getting fired, or getting engaged, announcing a pregnancy, solving a major dispute or even breaking up a relationship. We have a thousand people reacting as one person hears the secret for the first time. It’s a life-changing moment for somebody -- gets you right in the heartstrings.”
With Mobbed, traveling and another successful run as a judge on the recently completed Season 6 of America’s Got Talent, Howie is one busy showbiz phenomenon after 30 years in an industry of 15-minutes-of-fame stars.
“I have the attention span of a gnat, so it all works. I do it all. They cross it with each other, so the tour dates work in when I’m not doing the television. That’s been my staple for 30 years -- the one constant in my life where there are no problems to deal with. I have no marks to hit. There are no lines to cross. I’m in charge, and I can just give an uninhibited performance. I’m the center of the attention while onstage live, so nothing can get in its way.
“It’s off stage where the problems lie. Ask me how I’m doing with that, and I’ll tell you, ‘It depends on which day.’ I have a great army to get me through it, though. There is no cure for OCD, so there is therapy. There is medication. I have all the tools in place to be able to live a fruitful existence.
“I dread to think what it would be like if I didn’t have that or couldn’t afford it from the comedy. At times, I’ll confess it’s really very hard on me. Sometimes I’m perfect -- and then I relapse completely. It ebbs and flows. I can have a really rough couple of weeks, and that will mean more therapy and upping the medication.
“It’s very tough because I know the difference. That’s the dichotomy of it. I understand what it is. I understand why I shouldn’t be affected by it, but I am. I realize it’s awkward and uncomfortable for people who have to deal with me, but I go to the humor to escape, to entertain, and it pays, in my case, the mortgage and the medical bills.
“The comedy is both spontaneous and interactive improv. My nightmare gives me new fodder, and I have an arsenal of material from 30 years. But I like anything that pulls me off the beaten path with new, fresh, never-been-there-before material.
“The problem with this is that I know it’s ridiculous. I know it makes no sense. I know I would survive if I shook hands with somebody, but I can’t touch that door. I can’t get past the thought pattern. I would love to be normal.
“When I come to the Venetian, I know I’m going to go through the whole drama of the new pack of fresh towels -- not cleaned, laundered ones. I need ones never used, never opened. I know my feet must never touch the floor. I am CSI meets Cirque in real life.
“It’s a nightmare going through life like this. Onstage, though, I’m out amongst people, and it doesn’t exist. Now you know why I do what I do.”
And he’s been doing it his way since an amateur night at the L.A. Comedy Store in 1979 changed him into an entertainment icon who has used his successes with his comedy to cope with the major problems -- and challenges -- of fighting OCD.
“I watched the Howard Hughes movie of his life [Martin Scorcese’s The Aviator with Leonardo DiCaprio as Howard],” he told me. “He was the same, a germaphobia. He was a brilliant guy, innovative, but became an obsessed recluse because of it. I’m refusing to be like that. I don’t want to wind up like he did, and so my battle continues every waking day. It never gets better -- it’s always there, and sometimes worse some days than others.”
I don’t think Howie has ever spoken more candidly about his constant fight. His 2009 bestselling book Here’s the Deal: Don’t Touch Me was his humorous analysis of the OCD and ADHD mental struggle. It’s no laughing matter, yet he has found his escape from its nightmares that shaped his life and career by being onstage 200 shows a year making people laugh.
Chris Yancey, entertainment executive director at the Venetian, said: “Howie has become one of the premier comics of our generation. We’re thrilled to welcome him to the Venetian. He draws from three decades of personal experiences and observations, and we’re excited to see what he has in store.”
It’s not only Halloween that Howie tackles for the first time at the Venetian with his two-night engagement -- more dates are to be announced. His AGT winners are in their one-and-only live U.S. show this weekend with Jerry Springer as host at Caesars Palace.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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