Howie Mandel’s Nightmare with OCD: about the mental impact he faced amid the pandemic

April 18, 2024
8 mins read

Who is Howie Mandel?

Born on 29 November 1955, Howard Michael “Howie” Mandel is an actor, producer, TV personality and stand-up comedian, specializing in observational and improvisational humor. The Canadian funnyman, who was brought up in Ontario’s Willowdale area, is of Jewish descent, and has Romanian and Polish ancestry.

During Howie’s childhood, his father worked as a real estate agent and lighting manufacturer, while his mother was believed to be a housewife. The future actor’s early years were relatively tranquil until he was expelled from William Lyon Mackenzie Collegiate Institute for a jaw-dropping prank in which he hired a construction company by impersonating a school official.

After being expelled, Howie juggled a carpet salesman job while moonlighting as a stand-up comedian in the Toronto hotspot Yuk Yuk. At the age of 23, he scored his first week-long booking, and typically included a latex glove in his routine, which he would inflate by blowing through his nose.

During a trip to Los Angeles, Howie became a regular performer at The Comedy Story after performing a set. There, he was spotted by a producer of the comedy game show “Make Me Laugh”, and booked for performances on the show during 1979 and 1980. With the Canadian’s gigs becoming more and more prestigious, he was even booked as an opening act for David Letterman.

In another stroke of luck, the head of variety programming for CBC-TV signed Howie for a TV special in October 1979 after seeing one of his performances. The humorist also co-starred opposite Donald Sutherland and Susan Anspach in the Canadian movie “Gas” after winning the lead role, which undoubtedly helped him receive exposure, and build on his industry connections.


1980s and 1990s

From 1982 onwards, Howie was one of the main characters on “St. Elsewhere” opposite Norman Lloyd and Ed Flanders. During his six years on the show as Dr. Wayne Fiscus, the comedian successfully crossed over to the US market and expanded his fanbase. In March 1984, he was also a regular on “Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour”.

Movie work became Howie’s bread and butter, as he juggled his Dr. Fiscus role and stand-up gigs. Some of the titles he appeared in or provided voiceover work for include “Gremlins”, “Gremlins 2: The New Batch”, and “The Iceman Hummeth”, a short directed by Michael J. Fox which was broadcast on “Late Night with David Letterman”.

1986 and 1987 were also fantastic years for Howie’s career as he starred in “A Fine Mess” and went on his Watusi Tour in several cities, followed by the release of the “Watusi” music video. During seasons one and two of “Muppet Babies”, the funnyman voiced Skeeter, Animal, and Bunsen Honeydew, and also starred in the comedy film “Walk Like a Man” alongside Amy Steel.

Over the next few years, Howie racked up his acting and voiceover credits with roles in “Good Grief”, “Little Monsters”, and the Emmy-nominated series “Bobby’s World” which he also created and executively produced. “Bobby’s World” was syndicated after airing on Fox for seven seasons.

1992 marked a new beginning for Howie, as his self-titled show aired, boasting guest stars such as Little Richard and Gilbert Gottfried. Howie’s character, Bobby, was a recurring presence on the show. Two years later, he branched out and did his first voiceover work for a videogame. “Howie Mandel’s Sunny Skies”, the stand-up’s sketch comedy series, aired on Showtime in 1995, but petered out shortly afterwards.

Other professional feats of Howie’s in the 90s include a leading role in “The Amazing Live Sea Monkeys”, his own syndicated talk show “The Howie Mandel Show”, and roles in “Apocalypse III: Tribulation” and “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman”. Although the Canadian’s talk show was cancelled after just one season for unexplained reasons, Howie was by now an established household name, who could afford the occasional professional hiccup.


2000s to Present Day

Howie’s first job of 2000 was a voiceover role as Jack in “The Tangerine Bear”. Two years later, he would play the Sand Man in “Hansel and Gretel”, before appearing as himself in a 2006 episode of “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip”. In between movie and TV jobs, the humorist continued to do stand-up gigs, tours, and promotional events.

Most of Howie’s comedy shows of the time featured his popular alter ego Phil Skorjanc, who the stand-up genius began using more when he was forced to drop his famous latex glove routine under doctor’s orders, following a perforated sinus diagnostic. Nevertheless, in a cameo role on “My Name is Earl”, Howie brought the routine back, much to viewers’ delight.

The Canadian’s hidden camera segments on Jay Leno’s “Tonight Show”, as well as his TV commercial work for Boston Pizza, both proved enormously popular and contributed to his ranking on Comedy Central’s list of the greatest stand-up comedians of all time. The funnyman also did his fair bit of hosting work for the US version of “Deal or No Deal”, which aired in late 2005 on NBC and gained popularity in 2006. The Ontarian native also became one of the few people to host an international and domestic version of the same show, working on “Deal or No Deal Canada”.

“Howie Do It”, Howie’s reality show, premiered on NBC in January 2009 and was well-received despite not lasting long. Other notable feats in his career include hosting the NASCAR Sprint Cup Awards Ceremony in November 2012, and being the executive producer of the hidden-camera show “Deal with It”.

One of the humorist’s most recent projects is the “Howie Mandel Does Stuff” podcast, which he’s been hosting since February 2021, with help from his daughter Jackelyn. The pair entertain listeners with prank calls, pop culture discussions, and interviews. Recent guests include talent show judge and music mogul Simon Cowell, who made his first ever podcast appearance to detail his ups and downs in the entertainment industry.

Some episodes of the podcast, such as “Why Do A Father & Daughter Need To Talk To A Sex Coach?!”, have been described as inappropriate; Jackelyn and Howie raised eyebrows when interviewing the renowned sex coach Nora deGrasse to discover where the elusive G-spot is. However, fans of the comedian pointed out that it’s Howie’s job to push the envelope, and take humor in new directions, even if that means making some people uncomfortable.


Personal Life, Health Issues

Howie and Terry Mandel have been married since 1980, and share three children: Jackelyn, Riley, and Alex. Terry, a lively blonde with an infectious sense of humor and a staunch love for animals, is pretty low-key and only has 5,000 Instagram followers. However, she’s outspoken when it comes to her political views, especially her opinion about the overturning of Roe v. Wade, making her stance clear with a post that read: “You cannot be for government mandated pregnancy and personal freedom at the same time.”

Terry has stayed by Howie’s side through thick and thin and has often been the first person to celebrate her husband’s professional and personal achievements, such as the Hollywood Walk of Fame star which he received in September 2008, and the Canada’s Walk of Fame star he received a year later.

The comedian has been frank about his struggles with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which he first discussed in October 2008 on the morning talk show “Live with Regis and Kelly”. Mere months after sharing his plans to raise adult ADHD awareness, Howie was admitted to St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto in January 2009, after reportedly suffering a minor heart attack; his publicist soon abated the media frenzy by denying the heart attack reports.

Howie also used his biography and a comedy show named “Here’s the Deal: Don’t Touch Me” to shed light on what living with ADHD and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is really like. The celebrity, who supports causes such as Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day, is so affected by his OCD that he refuses to shake hands with anyone – including “Deal or No Deal” contestants – unless he’s wearing latex gloves, although he did once kiss a female contestant for good luck.

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In a March 2006 appearance on “The Howard Stern Show”, Howie – who controls his disorder with medication – also shared that he shaved his head to feel cleaner – it wasn’t natural hair loss. The comedian even built a second house in the backyard of his home to isolate from the rest of his family, whenever his wife or one of his children is sick. Confronting his germaphobia in an episode of “This Is Not Happening” was a particularly harrowing experience for the media star, and it remains unclear if his appearance in the show yielded any long-term results.

Three years before his sit-down interview on “Live with Regis and Kelly”, Howie had an unpleasant altercation while guest-hosting for the same show, when one of the guests grabbed his hand and mocked his germaphobia. The guest was scolded by host Kelly Ripa, whereas a generous audience member provided Howie with some hand sanitizer.

In another awkward on-air moment, Howie interviewed Marshall Faulk on the NFL Network in September 2007. When Marshall asked to shake hands, Howie politely declined and said he’d prefer to bump fists. However, seconds later Marshall shook his right hand, making Howie scream and walk away; he had to wash his hands various times. Those not familiar with Howie’s condition may find his reactions extreme, which is why the comedian has been open about his struggles – including being unable to use public bathrooms – in an attempt to raise awareness.


Obviously, Howie’s OCD and germaphobia has led to some run-ins on the “America’s Got Talent” show, which he’s been guest judging since its fifth season. One contestant’s act involved sneezing, and made Howie so uncomfortable that he immediately pressed the X button and ran away into an aisle. Howie implored the other judges – Sharon Osbourne and Piers Morgan – to press their X buttons too, and pressed Sharon’s when she refused to do so, thus ending the act.

Another Got Talent incident saw a contestant named Dan Sperry drop dental floss as part of a magic act. When the dental floss fell near Howie, the comedian immediately got up and ran to the other side of the judges’ table, joking in another episode that his therapist loved Dan because thanks to him, he’d had to attend two extra sessions. As both of these incidents occurred in season five, the first season Howie joined the show, some skeptic fans wondered if the producers of Got Talent had influenced the contestants to deliberately make Howie uncomfortable.

However, contestant Chris Jones, who appeared in the premiere episode of AGT’s 10th season, took things a step further by basing his hypnotism act around Howie’s germaphobia. After being hypnotized and told that Chris and all the judges were wearing latex gloves, Howie shook their bare hands and later claimed to feel “betrayed” and “upset” when viewing a video of Chris’s act.

Howie wasn’t diagnosed with OCD until adulthood, although he struggled with his condition since childhood, and had always felt that there was an issue. “I’ve always felt a little different, and I always knew I wasn’t as comfortable with life as everybody else seemed to be, but I didn’t know what I could do about it,” he explained in a 2011 sit-down interview with Ability Magazine. The stigma around mental health issues also prevented Howie from seeking professional help, as he didn’t know anyone who went to a psychiatrist.

The Canadian celeb, who is also colorblind, missed various episodes of the 17th season of AGT after contracting COVID-19 at the 2022 Kids’ Choice Awards. His stint with the virus affected his physical and mental health so badly, that he turned to drugs and illegal substances to cope. Before catching COVID, Howie started “Breakout the Masks”, a charitable foundation focused on providing healthcare workers with the adequate personal protective equipment to fight against the pandemic.

Martha Clifford

As an Author at Net Worth Post, I guide a dedicated team in the art of revealing the stories behind the world's most influential personalities. Fueled by a relentless curiosity and a knack for uncovering hidden stories, I immerse myself in the intricacies of our subjects' lives, weaving together accurate data and compelling narratives. My involvement spans the entire editorial process, from the seed of research to the final flourish of publication, ensuring that every article not only educates but also captivates and motivates our audience.

At Net Worth Post, we are committed to providing thorough investigations into the net worth and life achievements of innovators across diverse sectors such as technology, culture, and social entrepreneurship. My method merges meticulous research with eloquent storytelling, designed to bridge the gap between our readers and the remarkable individuals who redefine our tomorrow. Through spotlighting their journeys to success, the hurdles they've surmounted, and their contributions to society, we aim to give our readers a deep and inspiring insight into the luminaries who are paving the way for progress and ingenuity in the modern era.

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