TORONTO – Canadian funnyman Howie Mandel is known as many things: a veteran stand up comic, a reality show judge, a germaphobe, a mental health advocate.
And now, he’s part-owner and the face of the venerable Montreal comedy festival Just For Laughs/Juste pour rire.
Upon announcing his role in a new ownership team led by the U.S. talent agency ICM Partners, Mandel adds a new chapter to a decades-long, multifaceted career that’s spanned comedy club stages, network television, various reality shows and charity work.
Here are four things to know about Howie Mandel:
HE BEGAN ON THE STAGE
Long before judging “America’s Got Talent,” anchoring “The Howie Mandel Show” and creating and voicing the animated hit “Bobby’s World,” Mandel shot to fame in the ’80s, thanks in large part to a stand-up gag that involved putting a latex glove over his head, stretching it over his nose and filling it with air.
The trick lives on online, with one video clip featuring the boisterous jokester demonstrating his technique to actor Ted Danson: “Is this what you’re known for?” Danson asks in a video dated 1986.
“Yeah. Isn’t that weird?” Mandel replies sheepishly.
Nostalgic comedy fans will also find images of a baby-faced Mandel with a mop of dark curly hair gesticulating wildly with outstretched palms as he paces the stage. And the earliest incarnations of his popular alter ego Bobby, a squeaky-voiced boy with an overactive imagination.
Despite moving on to TV roles that included a long-running stint as Dr. Wayne Fiscus on the 1980s medical drama “St. Elsewhere,” Mandel would continue to return to his standup roots, even hosing a multi-comic gala at Just for Laughs in 2016.
HE’S A PROUD CANADIAN
Mandel has said he “resented leaving” Canada in order to pursue a career in Hollywood, explaining that it was only because he found it so hard to build comparable success here.
But he did his best to remain plugged into the Canuck scene, even gushing over homegrown TV hits “Kim’s Convenience,” “Schitt’s Creek” and “Orphan Black” before hosting the Canadian Screen Awards in 2017.
“I believe that we are probably the most underrated country in as far as what we’re able to produce and what happens in our industry,” said the Emmy-nominated comedy star, who was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame in 2009.
“I’m amazed that it’s not more well-known worldwide. Maybe it’s just that what we have in creativity we lack in the entrepreneurial spirit of getting it out there.”
And now that he has a stake in Just For Laughs, Mandel vows to continue championing Canadian talent.
“Any reason I can get on a plane and come to Montreal I will and now I have many reasons and I expect to spend a lot more time there.”
HE’S A SAVVY BUSINESSMAN
Yuk Yuk’s founder Mark Breslin recalls the days of a wild comic who once stripped to his underwear on a flight to Los Angeles to unleash jokes on fellow passengers. This was back in 1979 when Breslin says he accompanied Mandel to his first show in L.A.
“Howie’s come along way from the latex glove on the head,” says Breslin.
Behind the scenes, Mandel has established himself as a proven show creator and executive producer, with a keen eye for preserving the bottom line, says Breslin.
“I know he’s made a lot of money in California real estate, which he told me once upon a time, so I have to assume he knows something about money. I know he also negotiated a brilliant contract with NBC for ‘Deal or No Deal’ that made him an awful lot of money.”
Breslin says Mandel is one of the few big comedians who cuts across a lot of demographics, and that should serve Just For Laughs well.
“He knows everybody and he’s a very powerful player in Hollywood.”
HE’S A MENTAL HEALTH ADVOCATE
Mandel has lent his star power to several charities over the years.
That includes raising awareness of atrial fibrillation, an irregular heart beat associated with an increased risk of stroke that he himself has.
But he’s probably best known for speaking about his obsessive compulsive disorder, and an intense fear of germs that keeps him from shaking hands with people.
“I have mental health issues as it is and as I sit and talk to you I am medicated so the highs and the lows aren’t really bothering me. I’m just floating in the middle,” Mandel admitted during a question-and-answer session at the Banff World Media Festival in 2011.
Mandel also has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which he details in his autobiography “Here’s the Deal: Don’t Touch Me.”
He has said he was “always nervous and neurotic and afraid.”
“I wouldn’t tie my shoelaces at school. If mine came undone, I wouldn’t pick them up to retie them because the laces were on the floor,” Mandel said.
“I would be anxious and angry and then I’d go home and take a shower until my Mom would say it was dinner time. I would be in the shower for hours and I’d use every towel.”
With files from Ross Marowits