For comic Howie Mandel, sponta-neity is the name of the game.
Besides a standup career than has spanned more than 30 years, the Canadian-born performer is most frequently known these days for his unscripted television projects – as a judge for NBC’s “America’s Got Talent,” and the producer and sometimes star of TBS’ “Deal with It.”
“Deal with It,” a hidden-camera show in which a contestant earns cash by doing increasingly outlandish things in public as directed by a panel of celebrity pranksters, owes a big debt to one of Mandel’s comedy inspirations: Allan Funt of “Candid Camera” fame.
He remembers the first time he watched the show as a young child: Funt told the viewing audience that they hired a woman who thought she was going to be a receptionist; they tied a rope to her desk and every time she went to answer the phone, the desk moved.
“I understood what he was going to do, and it was so much fun watching her face as the desk miraculously crept away every time she reached for the phone,” he says. “And I thought, ‘Oh, he included me in the joke, it’s really funny, my whole family can laugh together regardless of what age we are or who we are.’ It’s really visceral, and we could talk about that happening to me, what I would do, or look how she’s reacting. That’s my favorite kind of comedy.”
Mandel’s standup act celebrates those spontaneous moments that he says are the essence of comedy.
“The awkwardness is what all comedy is based on, you realize that? ... That’s why my act is very improvisational, because I think there’s nothing funnier than a real reaction, real stories, and that’s what happens and what I talk about onstage. That’s what I find the funniest.”
With “Deal with It” and “America’s Got Talent” in between seasons at the moment, Mandel has time to focus on his newest role: grandfather.
“I’m just taking each day as it comes,” he says. “I’m enjoying being here in Los Angeles and doing work right here in town and staying pretty close. Arizona’s pretty close; it’s in and out the same night so I can spend time with family, and right now that’s my priority.”
While Mandel is family-friendly, his standup act can’t be described that way, he says.
“It’s not necessarily blue, but it’s not for the entire family, like the television I do. Not that I have any plans to be irreverent, but it happens. Standup comedy for me is the primal scream at the end of the day where there are no rules, there are no boundaries and I can do whatever I want. That’s why I love doing it.”
When: 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 10
Where: Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, 7380 E. Second St.
Tickets: 480-499-8587 or scottsdaleperformingarts.org