Howie Do It

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Filed under: Practical Jokes and Mischief, Pranksters

Howie and vaudeville collide
The Vancouver Sun / National Post
January 9, 2009

howiedoit-200Howie Mandel and his team of pranksters hit the streets to prank innocent bystanders in a new hidden camera show, Howie Do It, premiering tonight at 8 p. m. on Global. Mandel spoke with the Post’s Jon Sufrin about his show and the art of pulling a brilliant practical joke.

Q Your new show is Howie Do It. What goes on there? Is it just practical jokes on people?

A Yeah, you know, I got inspired when I was a little kid. The first recollection I have of being aware of comedy — something that was definitely comedy where I said “wow, that’s really funny” — was Candid Camera. For me, the purest sense of comedy is how somebody acts in an awkward situation. Awkward is the funniest. Embarrassing is funny. Angry is funny. And if you look at comedy and how it’s written, even in a joke or even if it’s vaudeville, the old pie-in-the-face — you’re embarrassing somebody, you’re hurting somebody’s feelings. That’s what you’re doing, and comedy is based on that. But if it’s done in all good fun, it’s funny.

Q Do you write these situations?

A Co-write.

Q Do you just wake up at night and think, “This would be a brilliant practical joke?” Does it come out of nowhere?

A Nowhere. No particular time or place. You know, I happen to be a germaphobe. I was sitting in a restaurant and somebody served me, and their finger was really close to the sandwich when they served the plate. That drives me nuts. But when he walked away I wrote that down, and the next day we shot an episode where I was a waiter with my finger in everything. You know, just think of an awkward situation, and then it’s fun to design that and see how people react to it.

Q Sometimes I think with germs that your immune system needs a little bit of practice.

A You’re right. You know, I’m wrong, but it’s a mental issue, not an intellectual issue. I get sicker than most because I don’t have a built-up immunity. Germs are good for you.

Q So what’s the secret to pulling off a great practical joke?

A The secret to pulling off the best practical joke, for me, and this is just my opinion, is to not try and be funny but to try and be real. The more real a situation seems to be, the funnier it will be. If I’m trying to be funny in the context of it, it doesn’t really work. And we always mandate that, when we write these things. We write a scenario and sometimes we say, “Well that’s not real, he’s not going to buy that.” So it’s gotta be real.

© National Post

photo: cinemablend