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Howie Mandel Shreds Woke: No One Is ‘Damaged’ By Comedy

'Stand-up World' podcast tackles offensive humor, need for free expression

When you think of rebellious comedy, some names immediately jump to mind.

Howie Mandel, the stand-up who parlayed his shtick into decades of steady TV work, doesn’t crack that list.

The “Deal or No Deal” alum may not battle woke censors, but he loathes the rhetorical handcuffs placed on today’s comedians.

Mandel opened up about his early days in Hollywood as well as free expression on the “Stand-up World” podcast hosted by Mike Binder.

Howie Mandel | EP 63 | Stand-up World Podcast

Mandel first noticed the woke revolution when fellow comics complained about college students being offended by their stand-up material. What Elon Musk infamously dubbed the “woke mind virus” grew more toxic over time.

The good news? The virus may be fading.

“I think the pendulum swung really far into the woke, and I feel people like Shane Gillis and Bert Kreischer and Ari Shaffir and all these Austin comics … these people who don’t give a s*** about that and believe in the purity of what [stand-up comedy] is, and it is an art form, are bringing the pendulum back, and they’re selling bigger numbers than anybody that is trying to conform to what you believe you need to conform to,” Mandel said.

“If you think of comedy as an art, they started telling us there are certain colors you can’t use. If you’re a painter you shouldn’t say, ‘you can paint anything you want, but don’t use black, don’t use any yellows and it’s really not right to use blue.’ Art suffers, and there isn’t anything we shouldn’t talk about.”

Mandel wasn’t done.


Later in the podcast, Mandel drilled down into the reasons we laugh at hardship.

“All humor comes out of darkness. That’s why the Tragedy and Comedy masks are so close together,” he said. “If you’re a little kid and you go to the circus you’re laughing at a clown falling down. You’re laughing at the misfortune of somebody you don’t know.

If something bad doesn’t happen, it’s not funny. If something embarrassing doesn’t happen, it’s not funny. If something awkward doesn’t happen, it’s not funny,” he said.

“As someone who suffers from mental health issues and has a tough time every day, laughter is my bridge to existing. There is a thin line between making myself laugh … and being just crushed by darkness,” said Mandel, who suffers from OCD.

“So many people are afraid of humor,” Binder added. “I’ve tried jokes on my wife, or people or friends and they’ll go, ‘Oh, you can’t say that.’ Why? Why? And then you go up to an audience and everybody laughs and you go, ‘what were you afraid of?'”

Mandel recalled how the late comic Gilbert Gottfried pushed the comedy envelope early and often. Gottfried famously lost his gig voicing the Aflac duck after he told a joke about a Japanese tsunami shortly after the tragedy. That cost him more than 50 percent of his income, Mandel noted.

“You don’t have to laugh at the joke. You don’t have to like the joke. You don’t even have to get the joke. You’re going to remove his livelihood … for this joke that you don’t like, that isn’t even pointed at one particular person,” he said.

“Who is damaged by this? Who has ever been damaged by comedy?” Mandel added. “Ever? Ever?”

“What they’re always afraid of, they’re afraid maybe one or two people [will be offended],” Binder said.

“But they’re not damaged. They’re complaining,” Mandel said.

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