Howie Mandel has been performing for over 30 years. He's been on countless stages (as many as 200 shows a year), numerous TV shows (from "St. Elsewhere" to "Deal or No Deal" ) and frequently appears on the talk-show circuit. But this was only his second performance at a temple. The last time, he said, he "was reading his haftorah."
The unusual booking was the result of the ambitious programmers at Beth Shalom, some generous contributors and the invaluable assistance of temple member Andy Muser, who knows Howie from his previous life as an agent at the William Morris Agency. All proceeds from the show will go back to the temple to support various programs, said Laura Grief, Beth Shalom's vice president.
Following comedian John Mendoza, the 55-year-old Mandel bounced onto the stage with a big smile and a lot of energy. Mixing prepared bits with improv, he kept the audience laughing with his thoughts on marriage, doctors, shopping, fashion and sex, among other things.
He got a lot of mileage out of questioning emergency doctor Eric, who was slow to respond. After getting some answers to questions about foreign objects and a certain body cavity, he turned his attention to a woman who apparently owned a parrot. Turns out that she's not Jewish and her parrot is a caiques (pronounced kike). Not satisfied with riffing on that situation, he managed to relate the parrot to the aforementioned emergency room situation. The audience was hysterical, even the parents who may have been wondering if it was a good idea to have brought their kids.
Even the local photographer, who wishes to be unnamed (alright, it was me), became part of the act. Not that I minded. It's at jobs like this that I enjoy myself as much as Mandel seems to.
The evening continued with a dessert reception for contributors and premium ticket purchasers. Mandel chatted and posed with fans, signed books and spread some more goodwill, but did not shake hands. There's a reason why the book is called "Here's The Deal: Don't Touch Me."
Laura Grief summed up the evening. "A group of congregants wanted to do something fun and exciting. We have never done this before. He was a delight to work with -- he really connected with people. And he was hysterical."