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