Fame & Fortune: Howie Mandel

When you line them up, Howie Mandel's list of accomplishments is as odd as it is eclectic. Blowing up a rubber glove on his head. Talking in a seizure-inducing high-pitched voice for children's television. And now, that unavoidable, exaggerated phrase, "Deal ... or no deal," which has become as common as "Where's the beef?" once was. For Mandel, the success of his NBC game show "Deal or No Deal" came as a shock, but given his career's unusual route -- from stand-up comic to "St. Elsewhere" star to kid's show creator to talk show host to game show host -- nothing should surprise.

Bankrate spoke to Mandel about the appeal of "Deal ..." and what it's meant for his career.

Bankrate: Why do you think that comics like yourself and Drew Carey have become the game show hosts of our era?

Howie Mandel: I think the creators realize that if you work in front of a live audience each and every day, ultimately you're the master of ceremonies of that room. People who can be witty and quick, and who can host and bring people through an evening of comedy and storytelling, can certainly bring people through an evening of game playing.

Bankrate: How did you wind up doing this?

Howie Mandel: I got a call from my manger saying that NBC and Endemol were doing this big game, and I said "No, thank you," because I'm a stand-up comic. I thought it would kill that end of my business. He called me back 10 minutes later and said, "Did they explain the game to you?" I said, "Does it really matter? It's a game." He called me back again and asked if someone could just sit down with me and show it to me.

So the guy came and we played the game, and it had looked like an 8-year-old had done this project. But they told me it was this huge international game in 65 countries, and NBC was gonna devote five hours of prime-time television in one week to it, which hadn't really been done. And then he said, "You're perfect for it." I said, "As much as I'm flattered, what is it about me? I don't know why you think I'm perfect to be a game show host." I didn't take that as a form of flattery. He said, "With this game, there are no stunts, there are no trivia questions, it's very in the moment. We want someone who plays in front of a live audience and can improvise; who has the ability to act, so they can underline the drama in the moments where there is drama; and who can interview and talk to people." So I was flattered by that.


Then there was the success of "Who Wants to Be A Millionaire" with Regis Philbin. That was the first time I can remember where somebody from another realm, who wasn't a game show host, did it, and it went through the roof. I didn't think this would go through the roof, but I thought, at least I won't be as embarrassed because I could say, "Well, Regis tried it." So I taped the show and had a lot of fun doing it.

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