Howie Mandel has been described as a constant force in show business. While many from the newer generation know him from America’s Got Talent and Deal or No Deal, he describes himself as a standup comedian first, a career that has kept him in demand for decades.
Maui audiences will get a chance to see him in his element at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center’s Castle Theater on Wednesday, Dec. 28 at 7:30 p.m. It’s one of a limited schedule of shows he is offering since the pandemic, and the only one happening in the islands this season. Tickets are available online at mauiarts.org.
In a phone interview with Maui Now’s Wendy Osher, Mandel shares his love for the islands, how the relaxed atmosphere helps with his mental health, and his latest undertaking, doing podcasts with his daughter.
OSHER: While many from the younger generation know you from America’s Got Talent, you have this long history of accolades in the entertainment industry, and of course that of being a comedian. Tell us about your upcoming show on Maui.
MANDEL: Standup comedy came first. Standup comedy is what I am. I am a comedian who happens to be on America’s Got Talent or in Saturday morning cartoons, or hosting game shows. But I’m always a comedian. Up until COVID, I was doing up to 200 live shows a year, and after COVID I kind of shutdown and didn’t travel.
I always loved Hawaiʻi, and I always come to Hawaiʻi to just to luxuriate. I love Hawaiʻi. Hawaiʻi is like my one destination that I’m there all the time whether I’m working or not. So I’m going to be in Maui. I said I don’t do that much standup. I don’t get an opportunity to do that much standup anymore. That’s the one place that I would love to do standup.
I will tell you, as you said, younger people know me from AGT and Deal or No Deal, but I wound’t bring kids to my live show because I don’t really edit myself. That’s what I love about standup. Standup gives me the freedom to do and say things–a big part of it is improvisational, in the moment, and I don’t really edit. AGT is a great family show. My standup show can be pretty adult, so I would warn people to not bring the kids who are big fans of AGT because I don’t watch my language.
OSHER: What happens to people who sit in the front row? Is there any special advice?
MANDEL: No. I find that people, throughout the years–they are sometimes very vocal. People will just talk to me, even from the balcony from way in the back. I don’t pick on people–I’ll just answer to what is happening in the room. I look at it like, it’s just a giant party and I’m trying to be the center of attention.
OSHER: I notice that the show happens a few days after Christmas. While you’re on Maui, is there someplace you want to visit while you’re here?
MANDEL: Any beach. I just like chillin on any beach. There’s not one in particular. I just want to sit in the sun and hear the ocean; and it doesn’t matter–any beach, and time, and just look at the ocean. I just love Hawaiʻi, and I love Maui. There isn’t one particular spot. There isn’t a bad spot.
OSHER: From what I hear, comedians are kind of observers. What’s interesting about the island and its people that you’ve observed?
MANDEL: If I’m an observer, I observe the moment–and that’s why my shows are very interactive. Obviously having been on stage for over 40 years, I have a plethora of material that I can call on, but I always look to be taken off the beaten path. I can always deliver material, but whatever happens in that moment–whether it’s a sound, a technical issue, whatever is happening that day, whatever is happening in that room at that moment. Without being specific, because I can’t be, I am just noticing and observing what’s happening in the moment in that room. If you came to a show, and then you came the next night, it would probably be very different. I don’t really do material about Hawaiʻi as much as I do material about what is happening right there in Maui, in that room, in that moment.
OSHER: You described yourself as a comedian first. Is there any particular location or topics that you touch upon or like to discuss?
MANDEL: I don’t talk politics, I don’t talk about the news. It’s easier to tell you what I don’t talk about. This is an escapism–and I escape in the moment of what’s happening in the moment, and focus on the now. I’ve been very open about my own personal mental health, and part of how I survive and function is about thinking about the now–not talking about the future, not talking about the past, but it’s about the now. It’s what’s happening in my life right now. And what’s happening in my life right now as I talk to you is probably different than what’s happening in my life a week from now.
OSHER: You touched upon your mental health and it’s been widely reported in the news, I guess what people call Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. What was that like for you during the pandemic? We’re still dealing with the after impacts of that. Is there anything in particular that you thought about more? How did that impact your performance or career?
MANDEL: I locked myself in obviously, and still do. I do a fraction of–this is one of the few places, because I feel so much more comfortable in Hawaiʻi, just because it’s good for my head. But OCD is something that is an ongoing struggle each and every day. I’ve upped my medication, I’ve moved my therapist into a whole new tax bracket. It’s still wildly uncomfortable for me to function each and every day, and that’s why I need Hawaiʻi. Hawaiʻi is really good for my mental health–the sound of the ocean, the sunshine. It just kind of seems like a relaxed atmosphere, because I’m certainly not relaxed in my own mind. It’s just a good environment for me to be in. And it’s a good environment for me to be funny in. And it’s a good environment for me to distract myself with whatever the beauty of the island is and the silliness of my own show. So you’re really coming to a group therapy session when you come to my show in Maui.
OSHER: Anything that you want to tell the Maui people?
MANDEL: I just love them. You can also listen–every Tuesday we drop a new podcast. Aside from doing standup comedy, I do a podcast called Howie Mandel Does Stuff with my daughter Jackelyn Shultz. You’ll hear from the biggest stars, the weirdest people, and they come in and talk to us and we play games and do prank calls. It’s wherever you get your podcast, and also on YouTube.
OSHER: That’s great. Tell me about your family. I understand your son is also a big YouTube star.
MANDEL: He’s now more behind the scenes. Even my podcast, he produces it, and he produces a lot of things that you see from a lot of influencers. He’s behind the scenes. I get to work with my kids. He produces that. My kids are all kind of involved. My other daughter is a personal fitness trainer, and she’s my personal fitness trainer. And as I get older I need her more.
OSHER: Well, Maui is really looking forward to having you on the island. You’re at a great venue at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center, and we really look forward to seeing you shortly.
Tickets for Howie Mandel are $39, $49, $69, $89, and a limited number of $129 premium seats plus applicable fees. At last check, there were were $69 and up tickets available via mauiarts.org.