Howie Man­del talks of standup strug­gles in the so­cial me­dia age

The Hamilton Spectator - - A&E - VIC­TO­RIA AHEARN

TORONTO — Cana­dian co­me­dian Howie Man­del says so­cial me­dia has made the standup world “a lit­tle scarier and lit­tle tougher now to cre­ate.”

With au­di­ence mem­bers record­ing standup com­edy bits on their phones and up­load­ing them online out of con­text, it changes the whole in­dus­try, says the Toronto-born “Amer­ica’s Got Talent” judge, who will host a multi-comic gala at Mon­treal’s Just for Laughs fes­ti­val on Fri­day.

“The big­ger prob­lem is so­cial me­dia and un­der­line the word ‘me­dia.’ There was a time when me­dia was a re­viewer,” says Man­del.

“It wasn’t some lonely per­son in their un­der­pants sit­ting on their bed, com­ment­ing on some­thing that they’ve only seen out of con­text.”

There was also a time when co­me­di­ans could test new ma­te­rial in clubs with­out fear of it wind­ing up online, he adds.

“I could go into a night­club at one o’clock in the morn­ing and try out and go, ‘No, that’s not go­ing to work. That might be po­lit­i­cally in­cor­rect. That’s too far,’” says Man­del, in a re­cent phone in­ter­view.

“But now I’ve got to worry about some guy hold­ing up his iPhone, video­tap­ing it, putting it out there and then hoopla start­ing be­cause of some­thing that they per­ceived that I meant or said ... I’ve got a lot of friends that have lost a brand that they’re the spokesman for, or a job, a tele­vi­sion show that they were go­ing to ap­pear on.”

Now, Man­del is “more self­aware” than he used to be.

“A big part of what I do is throw­ing cau­tion to the wind and I do get in trou­ble a lit­tle bit,” says the Emmy-nom­i­nated for­mer “Deal or No Deal” host.

“Whereas (be­fore) I never got in trou­ble, I just wouldn’t get a laugh or I would get booed, now I’ve got to be con­cerned about get­ting into trou­ble. And truth be told, at these live con­certs, that’s why I keep do­ing 200 dates a year, be­cause it’s the most free space I have.

“Whereas in tele­vi­sion, there are spon­sors. I’m in fam­ily en­ter­tain­ment with ‘Amer­ica’s Got Talent’ and even at the Just for Laughs fes­ti­val, I’m do­ing it for the CW, which is go­ing to be in prime time.

“But in a con­cert set­ting, there are no marks to hit, there’s no com­mer­cials to throw to, there’s no edit­ing. So it’s where, as an artist, I can be free as I need to be.”

Fri­day’s “Howie Man­del Gala” at Mon­treal’s Place Des Arts will be filmed for the CW Net­work. Man­del will also be at the fest on Thursday for a Q&A and screen­ing of his doc­u­men­tary “Com­mit­ted.”

Man­del has been do­ing standup con­sis­tently and pro­lif­i­cally through­out his ca­reer, av­er­ag­ing about 200 shows per year.

“It doesn’t seem like a strug­gle. It’s more like a strug­gle to not,” he says. “I don’t like quiet time, I don’t like sit­ting alone with my own thoughts.”

His other projects these days in­clude try­ing to re­launch his ’90s an­i­mated se­ries “Bobby’s World” in some ca­pac­ity.

“I’m reach­ing out to pro­duc­tion com­pa­nies and an­i­ma­tors and other com­pa­nies to see if any­body has any ideas, fea­ture com­pa­nies or game com­pa­nies to see what they have in mind or if any­body is in­ter­ested,” he says.

Mean­while, over at “Amer­ica’s Got Talent,” head­lines have been swirling that Man­del and co-cre­ator/judge Si­mon Cow­ell are feud­ing — which he stead­fastly de­nies.

“I love Si­mon” says Man­del. “I’ve never been more com­fort­able. He’s so sur­pris­ing, be­cause he’s re­ally funny and ironic and smart and he’s le­git­i­mately a star­maker. Right now he’s prob­a­bly got four or five peo­ple on the top 5 Bill­board charts and he’s hon­est and sar­cas­tic and funny.

“I’ve laughed more than I’ve ever laughed in my seven years on the show and we are get­ting along, un­like those weird head­lines. I’m thrilled to be work­ing with him.”

RICH FURY, CANA­DIAN PRESS FILE PHOTO

Howie Man­del says so­cial me­dia have made the standup world “a lit­tle scarier and lit­tle tougher now to cre­ate.”

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