Howie Mandel, host of "Deal or No Deal," cancelled his Hawaii engagements to wrap up some special segments during sweeps month.
How Howie Got Hot
Comic Howie Mandel marvels at his fortune after nearly rejecting TV's white-hot "Deal"
Sometimes it's good to be wrong. If Howie Mandel had followed his first instinct, he would have walked away from the "Deal or No Deal" TV project offered to him last winter.
"Deal or No Deal"
7 p.m. Monday on KHNL/NBC
Though he'd hosted a talk show in the past, the comedian wasn't the least bit interested in a game-show concept in which contestants cling to a suitcase full of cash, hoping that the unknown amount of money inside is larger than the deals they've passed up on along the way (with a bit of luck, family support and steady nerves, a contestant can walk away with as much as $1 million).
No, it was family pressure that made Mandel reconsider. "I said no to the idea of hosting a game show," Mandel said via phone from his office in Los Angeles. "My wife said, 'We've got to take it.' Now, it's, 'I told you so.'"
It might have been one of the best moves the comedian could have made, peer pressure and all.
The hour-long show, originally scheduled as a one-week-only special, has turned into a steady routine, airing as often as three nights a week on KHNL. Even other celebrities have gotten in on the act: Singer Celine Dion will be a guest in the season finale Monday. (And by the way, the "DOND" models who hold the suitcases of cash were collectively named to People magazine's "100 Most Beautiful People" list.)
"Deal" plays in more than 30 countries, with as many hosts. "I've watched in languages I didn't even understand," said Mandel.
Yes, Mandel's now relieved he signed the contract for "Deal," which is produced by Endemol USA, the same company behind "Fear Factor" and "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." "This is new and fresh, and I never hosted such a show before."
This isn't the first time Mandel's gone against his gut instincts. He didn't think he was going to have a career as a stand-up comedian, either, or be a dramatic actor, as evidenced by his turn as good-natured Dr. Wayne Fiscus on the Emmy Award-winning "St. Elsewhere."
Mandel originally planned a long career in carpet sales in his native Toronto. But the then 20-year-old accepted a dare from a friend and hopped up on stage during a comedy club amateur night while on vacation in Los Angeles.
Since then, Mandel has crafted a 30-year career out of acting, hosting and making people laugh. He still remembers his first paid gig as a stand-up comedian, at Yuk-Yuk's in L.A.
"I took a shot and it paid off," said Mandel.
"I had a normal middle-class upbringing. Entertainment was the farthest thing away. It was 180 degrees from what I planned. But without any risk, there isn't any reward. That's what I always say."
Intense in conversation, Mandel presents a stand-up routine light-years removed from his role as the host holding back personal opinions on "Deal." Mandel's adult-intended stage act represents just one side of his persona. But he said he's fully himself as the host of "Deal."
"I can be comedic and funny, and I can create tension. The concept of the show is so simple -- this idea that one answer could change a contestant's life. Men break down and cry, and scream from the pressure. These are just normal, everyday people -- people who need money."
Due to the popularity of "Deal or No Deal," Mandel twice canceled his May comedy date in Honolulu so he could wrap up some specials for the show during sweeps month.
Mandel continues to perform in as many as 200 comedy shows a year. "I like the humor in real-life situations. I always do hidden cameras. Putting the average person in awkward situations -- there's nothing funnier than that. But I can laugh at me, too."
Should he tire of his job as game-show host, Mandel believes he can pick up the TV projects on his back burner -- such as "Hidden Howie," in which he filmed everyday people caught in embarrassing circumstances; or the animated "Bobby's World," an Emmy-nominated children's program that ran for eight years on Fox, based on one sweet character from his stand-up show.
Bobby might be one of the few characters from his routine he would allow his two youngest children, Alex, 16, and Riley, 13, to see. "I wouldn't bring my kids to my comedy show. I'm very conservative as a parent. I'm the disciplinarian."
But he's not likely to return to those other projects any time soon, though. "My dance card is kind of full."
Season finale contestant Casey Bell has a Hawaii tie.
$5 million prize caps final show of 'Deal'
The stakes have been raised for the 90-minute season finale of Howie Mandel's "Deal or No Deal." Contestants will play for $5 million apiece.
Singer Celine Dion will appear via satellite from Las Vegas to serenade the "Banker" who can raise or lower a contestant's potential earnings.
Dion was asked to make the appearance for season finale contestant Casey Bell, niece of Sally Davis of Honolulu. Bell, who was chosen out of 5,000 hopefuls, included Dion as part of her submitted "wish list."
"I didn't even know (Bell) was on the show until after they taped it," said Davis, who performs at the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani and in John Hirokawa's Magic of Polynesia show. "It's exciting. I have no idea how much Casey won!"
Bell is a Temecula, Calif., guidance counselor. Her aunt said two busloads of her students were brought to the show for the taping of the season finale.
Bell was unavailable for comment due to contractual obligations; Davis, with friends and family, will be among the show's fans gathered around the TV, watching to see if Bell should choose to take a "deal."
There's also a Dion affiliation for the aunt: "I was the first Celine Dion impersonator with 'Legends,'" Davis said. "She's my favorite singer."