Emmy award-winning comedian Howie Mandel will entertain audiences at LIFE’s 22nd Annual “Lady in Red” Gala on Dec. 5 at The Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach.
We caught up with the host of “Deal or No Deal” and judge on “America’s Got Talent” to find out what makes him laugh, where he gets his material and how he recaptures the room when one of his improvisational riffs misses the mark.
How do you approach a Palm Beach audience differently from other audiences?
I don’t. A lot of what I do is improvisation. I look at it as a giant party. A lot of it is about what happens that day, in that place, in that moment.
This gala benefits LIFE’s partnership with the American Humane Association. When you first started out in comedy, did you ever think that your comedic talents would benefit philanthropy and charities in this way?
No. Everything I’ve been punished for and expelled for is what I’m hired for. What’s causing trouble is ultimately helping the benefit. … People are being helped and are doing this for a good cause. Just showing up means the pressure is on.
What do you love about Florida?
I grew up in Toronto, Canada, and [Florida’s] the only place that we really vacationed. When I go to Florida I feel like it’s home. Great weather. Great water. I spent a long time there, even when I’m not performing I usually vacation there. I love West Palm Beach and I love Florida.
So you do about 300 shows a year?
Yes. That’s how I started and that’s what I’ve continued to do as I’ve gotten other jobs. It’s kept me in touch with real people. … It keeps me in touch and informed on the other things that I do. It makes me a better judge and better producer. I’m not just in the bubble of New York or LA.
What’s your inspiration for material?
Reality and in the moment, mostly in the moment of what’s happened. Obviously after 35 years I have plenty of material to rely on, but at a moment’s notice I can be taken off the path, by something in the room, something in that town that’s going on. I like whatever’s happening in my surrounding in the moment.
Performing in the moment, that’s got to be completely exhilarating.
It’s like a verbal roller coaster. You get the feel of being dropped from the highest of heights into the unknown. It makes you feel excited. It makes you feel alive.
Any moments when you were out on a limb of the unknown and you lost it?
It’s happened many times. I was doing a show and it was going well. I saw a guy just off to my left who was making no eye contact and not really responding. As anybody in my business will tell you, it’s about that one guy—the room could be going crazy—but you focus on that guy. I said, “Guy in the blue sweater. What’s up? You’re not making any eye contact.” A lady with him said, “He’s blind.” You could feel the air go out the room. I decided to go for broke and said, “Well if he’s blind, why did you spend money on a front-row seat?” Those are the moments where you live or/and die.
How much fun are you having?
I feel like the luckiest guy in the world. I turn to my wife and say, “I can’t believe I’m doing this—especially at this age.” That’s one of the reasons I like coming to Florida. I like having dinner at 4:30 p.m.