Culture / Entertainment

Howie Mandel Unplugged — Comic Host Reveals All on His Health Mission, Entourages, Bad Cooking and Being an Outcast

The Road Warrior Who's on TV Everywhere Came to Houston for a More Heartfelt Quest

BY // 09.12.19

Taking over PaperCity‘s conference room, Howie Mandel is talking 100 miles per hour, his pitch for heart health, his philosophical ruminations and acknowledgment of his germaphobe affliction all laced with the humor that has made him the nation’s leading television host/comedian.

For example, when queried about his surprisingly large entourage of five, “I don’t know these people. I thought they were with you,” he laughs out loud. “They’re not with you? I think they’re here for the next meeting!” His booming voice carrying through conference room walls.

The handlers (his road manager of 30 years, two publicists and two pharma reps) are chuckling as well.

“I love this place,” the Deal or No Deal host says when asked about Houston. “I played The Woodlands. I love the Houston audience.” And then the head-shaved comedian deadpans, “The humidity is not good for my hair.”

Although he is on the road doing some 200 shows per year, on this day the accidental comedian (more to come on that) is in Houston on another mission. Warning about the dangers of high cholesterol and the availability of more than one statin drug that is effective in combatting the condition. Diagnosed with bad cholesterol numbers at age 30 and in good condition (he had run seven miles that day), Mandel was prescribed a statin.

“I didn’t feel as healthy as I did when I wasn’t on that statin. I stopped taking it because I felt better without it,” he explains. “Because I’m kind of a well-known germaophobe, anyway I can, I stay away from the doctor’s office.”

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But his next visit revealed soaring cholesterol numbers, his physician prescribed a different statin. “I thought a statin was a statin. I had no idea there was even another one,” he says. There are seven statins on the market today.

“So my message in this whole campaign is for people to keep communication open with family members and caregivers and there isn’t just one statin. There isn’t just one answer and this is a ticking time bomb, as was explained to me. Because I felt great, I didn’t realize how prevalent high cholesterol was and how prevalent it is as a risk factor for heart disease, which is the number one killer.”

Mandel has partnered with Kowa Pharmaceuticals America Inc. in promotion of a Take Cholesterol to Heart campaign via this website that takes the mystery out of the good, the bad and the ugly of LDLs and HDLs. It can be a helpful resource for the 100 million American adults impacted by the condition.

The message out of the way, we chatted with Mandel on a variety of subjects.

PC: How do you stay so fit with such a hectic travel schedule?

Mandel: I’m not that fit. My wife is a horrible, horrible cook, of which the upside is that I look like I’m fit. I mean nothing, she never made anything. And the things that she’s made are not edible. I would say that with her in the room. I would love to be overweight. But she can’t do it. There is nothing that she can put in front of me that I can eat.

PC: So you and your wife get along?

Mandel: I’ve been married for 40 years and my wife says that the key to this long, happy marriage is that I’m not there. And you’ll find that to love me is to not have me around. Like my wife is having the best day we’ve ever had right now while I’m sitting here talking to you. I know you’re laughing but she’s not.

PC: The AHA notes that Familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) is the inherited form of high cholesterol and an estimated 834,000 people live with FH. Does high cholesterol run in your family?

Mandel: My three children are grown (he has two grandchildren) and take care of themselves, so I don’t really know. My mother has high cholesterol.

PC: But you are a runner, right?

Mandel: I will run today. I run everyday. I always run. (How far?) Til I get home. To me, more than my physical fitness, I run for my mental fitness. So running is my form of meditation. I don’t have earphones. I don’t watch movies. I just run and hear the pitter patter of my little feet and my heartbeat and my breath until I feel happy again. So I run til I’m happy.

PC: Will you run in Houston in this heat?

Mandel: No, I’ll run at home (Los Angeles). I flew in last night and as soon as I’ve finished in another hour, I’ll go back. Last night, I was on live television on America’s Got Talent and here today I’m talking about high cholesterol and heart health in Houston. Tonight, I’ll be in L.A. running. Any job I get this side of the Mississippi River, I come home the same day. So I’m always home, to the chagrin of my wife. I yell ‘Honey, I’m home,’ and she goes ‘Great.’ No, she loves me.

PC: What is your guilty pleasure?

Mandel: Chocolate. I love chocolate, any kind of chocolate, anything that’s got chocolate on it.

PC: Don’t they say that chocolate is good for you, in moderation?

Mandel: That’s what they say and those are the articles that I keep. Moderation is not something I’m practicing.

Howie Mandel, Shelby Hodge, PaperCity offices Houston
Howie Mandel dropped by PaperCity Houston offices and spent 30 rocking minutes with scribe Shelby Hodge.

PC: Do you keep in touch with Drew Lynch (the Houston comedian and AGT golden buzzer pick)

Mandel:  I just saw him a couple of weeks ago at Yuk Yuk in L.A. Even when I’m not on the road and not doing concerts, I drop in comedy clubs every night. If there’re five people in a room facing one direction, I’m happy to get up in front of them. That’s also an exercise for me. Without a plan, show up some place, stand in front of people and try to demand their attention. I love stand-up comedy.

PC: Did you dream of being a comedian?

Mandel: This is 180 degrees from where I thought I would be. I grew up in suburban Toronto, middle class, in retail, carpet and home furnishings, real estate. Still in real estate. If you act on your instinct or in the moment, doors open for you, when you overthink you just create fear for yourself and fear is a great wall to stop you from doing it. There’s always a million reasons why not. So because of who I am and my knee-jerk reactions, I don’t have a GED. My behavior was bad. I can’t sit for long periods of time.

I’m about to stand up and leave in a minute. I can’t really focus. So I just do things and then whatever happens happens. And whether that means being expelled and punished, those are the same things I’m being paid for today. . . I just do it.

I was always an outcast, crazy, different, even visually. You know, I looked like a little girl. I had these locks down to my shoulders. I was 4’10” and weighted 89 pounds in high school and I was just this crazy, silly person who was always fighting my own inner demons.

PC: So how did this comedian thing happen?

Mandel: I didn’t aspire to be a comedian. In the early ’70s, I was thrown out of school and everybody I knew was staying in school and during the day it was kind of lonely. So I had to go and get a job. I wasn’t a club person, or drinker. I don’t play sports, no gambling. It was the beginning of the comedy club boom and I went to one one night with a friend. I had never been to one before.

At midnight they invited amateurs to come up on stage. My friend encouraged me so I did it. This was going to be the joke, ‘Howie Mandel from the carpet store is going to get up on stage, that was my joke.’  I looked down on the front row and they were laughing. It was April 19, 1977 (he was 23) the first day I ever got up on stage and that’s the day that changed my life.

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