Opportunity Knocks: Or, in Howie Mandel's Case, It's Always There ... Just outside the Door. the Comedian, TV Host and Producer Talks about Following His Heart, Keeping the Door Open to Opportunities, and His Latest Hit Show, Mobbed

By Salfer, Paul | Success, May 2012 | Go to article overview

Opportunity Knocks: Or, in Howie Mandel's Case, It's Always There ... Just outside the Door. the Comedian, TV Host and Producer Talks about Following His Heart, Keeping the Door Open to Opportunities, and His Latest Hit Show, Mobbed


Salfer, Paul, Success


Howie Mandel is on a plane about to land at New York's JFK airport when he finds out the aircraft is equipped with Wi-Fi. "I've got an urge to tweet. Here I go. ..." But before he can start, the jet begins its descent and a flight attendant asks passengers to turn off electronic devices. Mandel manages a quick retweet about his new show, Mobbed, then tweets: "I'm sooo sneaky." He doesn't elaborate; we assume he's tweeting surreptitiously now. Several quick ones follow, then this: "We are circling over ny due to weather. If the question of weather is weather or not I'd like to land now the answer is yes."

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Before the end of this long day in late January which ends with a standup performance in Dover, Del., Mandel will fire off some four dozen tweets and retweets. He passes along fan mail about Mobbed and retweets requests ranging from a shout-out to a fan's husband deployed to Afghanistan to prayers for another fan's sick newborn. He takes a good-natured jab at Piers Morgan, his former America's Got Went co-star. And he can't resist responding to the many random tweets that seem ripe for a punch line. ("Can you give my wife a tweet?" a Pan asks. "it seems wrong to tweet another man's wife." Howie responds. To "How often do you shave your head?" he replies. "Every time.")

Mandel isn't just. partial to Twitter. The Canadian-born carpet salesman-turned-comedian, actor, TV host and producer is a voracious consumer of all media, social and otherwise. "My customer is the masses," he explains in a phone interview from his home in Los Angeles. "I like to have my finger on the pulse of what's tickling people's fancy so I'm out there reacting."

Mandel follows everything posted about him through Google alerts, which ding all clay long with postings ranging from him being the voice of Gizmo in Gremlins to being a judge on America's Got Talent to discussions about why he shaves his head. He reads the good, the bad and everything in between with equal interest. Staying on top of what's trending constitutes market research for Mandel, which has been key to his remaining relevant through t he years. "I sit on planes for hours reacting articles, Hogs and watching YouTube. I sleep very little. I watch TV 24/7, even non-English television. Even infomercials," he says.

Mandel's fascination with social media led to the creation of the new Fox network show Mobbed which combines the surprise of reality TV and sensation involving large groups of people connected through social media who spontaneously congregate for short bursts of entertainment. "I was thinking that this is a phenomenon that people are interested in so how can we market it and put it on television? So for the last five years networks have been trying to do a flash-mob show and pilots have been shot, shows pitched, and they just couldn't get their heads around it. Fox was nice enough to put all of this money up on television produced without a net," he says, referring to the unpredicability inherent in the mob concept.

In addition to Mobbed, Mandel has more than a dozen other projects in development. With the success of NBC's Deal or No Deal, which he's hosted since 2007, he found himself in a power position when it came time to renegotiate his contract. Rather than simply asking for more money, he negotiated his own production company, which provides hint with an office and a staff. Although he's not in many of the dozen-plus shows he's developing, he enjoys working to create them, especially those that might have worldwide appeal like Deal. "I love coming up with ideas and selling them," he says. "It's not much different than the carpet business I started out in."

Growing up in Toronto, the son of a real estate agent and a lighting manufacturer, Howie Mandel describes himself as an incurable-attention seeker, particularly after the birth of his little brother. Stevie. While that trait probably contributed to his later success as a comedian. …

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