Diversity Magazine’s Person of the year,
Speak's Out On Mental Health
Written by: Patricia Bebia Mawa
What strikes you about Toronto-born actor, comedian, game show host, author and vocal talent, Howie Mandel, is his politeness and transformational attitude. Having gained accolades and immense success in stand-up comedy, I was expecting him to be funny in the interview, but he was beside his comic self. You can see through his big heart, as he makes you feel comfortable. I felt like I was talking to an old friend.
Mandel was unable to complete his education due to behavioral issues caused by Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). He was a spectacle growing up and a child ready to cause trouble. “I did not know then, but I now know that ODC and ADHD impacted my behavior. I realize now that this was part of the issues that I had and how I was coping. It helped form who I am today,” he says.
He was a carpet salesman before his career in show business kicked off. With the encouragement of friends, Mandel performed at the amateur night at the Comedy Store on the L.A. Sunset Strip during a vacation. A producer noticed him and invited him to feature on the comedy game show “Make Me Laugh.” Two decades later, he really makes people laugh as a Hollywood star.
“I get inspired doing comedy and show business and I did not think about where I will end up. Everything I have gotten whipped for, punished for, spanked for, is what I get paid for today,” remarks Mandel. He believes that everyone has equal opportunity. “Nike said it best, when they said, ‘Just Do It’. If you fail at something, that should lead to something. Keep heating that wall over and over again,” he says.
Mandel’s success is beyond his wildest imagination. He wedged his acting break in the early 1980s when he landed a role on the drama series ‘St. Elsewhere.’ He is the Host and Executive Producer of the Fox series ‘Mobbed’. He is also the Executive Producer and Host of NBC’s ‘Take It All’, a game show based on the famous holiday game ‘White Elephant’. He serves as one of the judges on NBC’s award-winning talent series, ‘America’s Got Talent’.
For Mandel, the importance of doing something you are excited about cannot be overemphasized. Something you would go to sleep and want to get up and do. Mandel has done myriad comedy specials both on cable and network television. He has also hosted his eponymous talk show, ‘The Howie Mandel Show’, and continues to be a significant player on the talk-show circuit. He regularly appears on “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno.
Mandel recently received an Emmy nomination for “Outstanding Reality / Competition Host” for “Deal or No Deal” and a Daytime Emmy nomination for “Outstanding Game Show Host” for the syndicated version of the show, including television, film and stage. “I love everything I do. If I was only doing one, I would probably get bored. I can do stand up, go to a studio and do a voice-over, produce, host and also do the business aspect of things,” he says.
Mandel maintains a ‘can do’ attitude and believes in pursuing his dreams. He says, “I tell my kids, just go for it. You can’t be successful if you do not go for it. Making it is not money, it is not fame, and making it is a great trail to blaze. Many people get through life not doing the things they dream of. Don’t dream of it, go for it and achieve your dreams. Success is going for it and making it,” says Mandel.
Mandel says that his first love is stand-up comedy. He performs as many as 200 concerts a year in the United States and Canada. When asked about his proudest achievements, he simply says, it is being a father. “There is no better legacy. My 28 year old has a Masters in Education, my other daughter is in University doing pre-med, my son is in the entertainment industry. He produces and performs. I love them, and my wife has been my partner and pillar,” he says.
Having suffered from OCD and ADHD all his life, Mandel is very vocal about mental health. “Something must be done. Look at the recent shootings in the United States. Mostly mentally sick people did these. There is a stigma involved even in the workplace or other circles. People can say at work I have to leave at 3 pm and go to my dentist, but no one can say, I have to go to my psychiatrist. There is certainly a stigma. It could be anyone. If it is not mental health, it will be something else. If you do not have mental issues, you know someone that has it,” he says.
Mandel acknowledges that his main challenge is living with ADHD. He credits the love of his family in dealing with it. Fear nearly inhibited him from accepting certain jobs. He recommends mental education. “There should be coping skills given by a therapist. No one goes to a therapist when someone in their family has cancer, but they should. Whether it is OCD or Bipolar, someone is going to deal with some anxieties. There should be a psychologist to interview kids and identify people with problems.” He says.
It is the hope of Mandel that society will see the connection between a whole and healthy community and mental health. “You cannot control your physical wellbeing without a mental well being,” he says. Mandel’s ‘The Flash Mob’ show is coming back on Fox. He is also touring and doing live concerts. His company is producing a lot of other shows where he does not appear. “I am constantly busy. I feel like a lucky guy. When you enjoy and look forward to what you do, you are lucky,” he says.
Mandel is inspired by the provision of creative solutions, coming up with ideas that no one else has come up with and finding a better way to do things better. “Production is just the bomb. Imagine 300 people assemble to make your idea come to fruition. 20 cameras, thousands of strangers involved in making it happen. That is pretty exciting,” he says. Mandel’s advice to youth is, “Don’t dream about it. Just do it.” With this attitude, Howie Mandel is set to be in the entertainment industry for a long time.