I can’t even tell you the agony associated with listening to Larry Hooper sing “Oh Happy Day” on loop for approximately 10 minutes, especially when there is no indication of it ending any time in the near future. This is how Howie Mandel opened what thankfully became a hilarious act on Friday, Jan 29. a show hosted by CAB as part of the Winterfest Weekend activities.
With no end to the Hooper video in sight, however, the audience began chanting Mandel’s name, begging him to come on stage and stop the video. For a while, all he did was toy with us from backstage, rewinding the video and making us start the loop over. Ten minutes has never felt so long in my life, and I began to wonder why I had spent eight bucks on this crap.
I’m sure using “Oh Happy Day” as an introduction was just a ruse to make the start of his actual show come as a huge and welcome wave of relief by comparison, and more power to him because it worked.
All the clichés that people always use when describing laughter, I actually experienced. At certain moments during the show I was literally doubled over and could not breathe.
One such moment came during the first bit that Mandel did, during which he exposed that he is both germaphobic and claustrophobic. As such, one of his least favorite activities is riding in elevators. He went on to make fun of how most people, when they find themselves in an elevator, feel inexplicably awkward and, not knowing what to do or where to look, stare stupidly at the numbers, as if expecting them to pop out and do a little dance or some thing, but, of course, nothing exciting ever happens.
I’m no Mandel, so obviously my recounting of his joke isn’t funny at all, but the enthusiasm and inflections of his voice during his telling of the elevator joke — and throughout the entire show, actually — were ultimately what made it so hilarious.
In the end, the character that a comedian brings to his performance is what differentiates him from just another guy talking about his boring, everyday activities.
Mandel’s routines all pulled from mundane, routine life events, but they made for successful jokes when he told them. They were both easy for everyone to relate to, and he told the jokes with a sarcasm and wit that transformed them from boring stories into a comedy routine, keeping the whole audience engaged.
For our generation, Mandel is most well known as the host of the popular NBC game show “Deal or No Deal,” but Mandel has been doing stand-up comedy for 30 years, long before “Deal or No Deal” was even a concept, and back when he had a full head of hair.
Quite a large portion of the audience was made up of an over-50 crowd of Rochester residents, who I’m sure came to appreciate the stand-up comedian they know and love, and not to see “that guy from ‘Deal or No Deal’,” like the UR component of the audience.
There were many moments in the show when people from the audience attempted to shout out jokes of their own (and did so rather poorly, might I add), or Mandel would direct a question at an audience member and get an answer to a completely unrelated question instead. None of this threw the comedian, though, and instead he incorporated the brazen oddness of this particular audience’s behavior into his jokes.
He often poked fun by saying that he felt like he was here to see us perform, rather than the other way around, as expected.
The show’s one major pitfall was when Mandel played a video of himself being mischievous at Super Cuts. He claimed to have disguised himself and passed as a hair-washer while he was waiting for his son to get his hair cut, while still managing to get the whole thing on tape.
Instead of actually washing people’s hair, though, Mandel squirted water down their backs, pretended to cough up hairballs and basically did anything in his power to make his “customers” as uncomfortable as possible. I found this whole part of the show hard to take seriously and thought the video seemed staged, though I’ll never know for sure.
Toward the end, Mandel announced that he had actually finished his show about six minutes ago, but was enjoying the audience a lot, and had nowhere to be, so he just continued to run with it
Mandel also frequently made comedic mention of having ADHD, and, at several moments throughout the show, he would go on a hilarious tangent, but then need reminders from the audience on what he was actually supposed to be talking about.
Though I don’t know if he actually has diagnosed ADHD, I do know that at the beginning of the show he came bounding onto the stage and began talking a mile a minute, to the point where I worriedly wondered if I would be able to understand him at all during his show.
But Mandel slowed his speech down a little as the show went on — while still maintaining a generally high energy throughout — and proved to us younger audience members that his talents extend far beyond his game show-hosting abilities and into the world of hilarious stand-up comedy.
Sklar is a member of the class of 2014.