Howie Mandel

Howie Mandel’s a man of many credits, known to a surprisingly wide variety of people, be it for his stand-up comedy, his dramatic work, his cartoon voices, or his game-show hosting abilities. Now, he’s taking on the mantle of Christmas special narrator, for “The Great American Christmas,” premiering this week on the USA Network. We had a couple of minutes to speak with Howie as well as the special’s producer, Gary Auerbach, about the upcoming show, as well as other things on Howie’s resume…

Bullz-Eye: Hi, guys.

Gary Auerbach: Hi, Will.

Howie Mandel: Hi, Will. (Into the microphone) This is Howie, saying, “Hi, Will.”

BE: Thank you. That’ll make my transcription a lot easier.

HM: (Chuckles) Okay.

BE: So, Howie, narrating a Christmas special…I think that officially makes you mainstream, doesn’t it?

HM: It really does. But you know what…? When they called me, I had no idea what to expect, and I was just telling Gary that I just screened it…? It is…I’m telling you that it is a wonderful project, and I am very proud…I was proud, even when I was doing the narration…to be proud of. It is funny, it is touching, it is informative, it seems to touch on everybody, every walk of life, every race, creed, color. Even though it is a Christmas special and it’s about, y’know…is it six, Gary? How many different people are we…

GA: Six different families.

HM: Yeah, six different families getting together for the holidays. It’s really about family, relationship…and I don’t care if you’re Jewish and you celebrate Hanukkah, or whatever you celebrate, you can relate to getting together and the foibles and fun of just trying to make something special, an event special for the whole family. And we follow everybody from a gay couple, to somebody getting out of prison and trying to reunite with his family, to just your average American middle-class family, to the Schullers and their Crystal Cathedral Christmas, and it’s just great. I laughed, I was touched, I was moved, I was inspired…I can’t wait for you guys to see it. And ladies.

BE: Given that it came about – at least indirectly – through “Deal or No Deal,” how happy are you that you decided to listen to your wife and take that gig?

HM: Oh, she’s the, uh…she’s the man. I had no idea. She told me, “You’re an idiot, take this deal,” like I sometime feel like saying to a contestant…and she was so right. I had no idea that it would become what it has become. And it has afforded me the opportunity…I don’t know if Gary would’ve called me if I had not been on that show, but I’m glad he did. And this is some of the ancillary effects that “Deal or No Deal” has brought me.

BE: And the last question: are you disconcerted by the fact that “St. Elsewhere” is getting ready to come out on DVD, and a generation is going to say, “Wow, he’s an actor? I thought he was just a game-show host”?

HM: Am I concerned about that…?

BE: Disconcerted.

HM: No! No, no, no…! I’ve had such a varied career from the beginning, starting as a stand-up comic, and then getting into dramatic acting. And even while I was on “St. Elsewhere,” I always had letters from people who were saying, “I have a bet with my husband that you’re not the same goofball that puts the rubber glove on his head”…

GA: (Laughs)

HM: …and I would answer that as long as they’d split the money with me, I’d say whatever they needed me to say. And then I was the Saturday morning cartoon guy with “Bobby’s World.” And now I’m hosting a game show…and narrating “Great American Christmas.” So I like that people seem to discover me in different venues, and that I have all these different audiences with different projects.