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`Deal or No Deal,' count him in

Howie Mandel is loving his job as host of NBC's hot game show. He won't be packing his suitcases any time soon.

July 24, 2006|Maria Elena Fernandez | Times Staff Writer

Comic Howie Mandel, host of "Deal or No Deal," the NBC game show that has taken America by storm, thought he knew what made people tick. Based on his famous (or infamous?) candid-camera stunts, he concluded that most people don't follow their first instincts.

But now, after a season as host of the dramatic and addictive game show, in which a contestant faces the possibility of winning $1 million or more that is hidden in 26 suitcases, Mandel is throwing in the towel: "I have no idea how humans work now. It's the most fascinating thing. I'm just filled with anger, sometimes awe, sometimes bewilderment. But that's why I hope to do it for years to come, because then maybe I'll understand."

Mandel appeared at the television press tour Saturday at the Ritz-Carlton, Huntington Hotel & Spa in Pasadena to talk about the show's new season, which premieres Sept. 25.

David Goldberg, president of Endemol USA, which produces the show, was part of the panel and said Mandel was pursued as host because of his comedic and acting abilities and experience.

"This is so out of left field for me and it's obviously opened up a lot of opportunities and more notoriety, more than any other job I've ever done," Mandel said.

Take shopping, for example. No matter what he tries to purchase, Mandel said, the folks at the cash registers always ask: "Deal or no deal?"

"And they always say it as if they're the first ones to ever say it," he added.

Mandel twice turned down the offer to host the series, figuring a game-show gig would be "the nail in the coffin" of his career. But his wife of 26 years, Terry, pushed him to do it. And what thanks does she get? The poor soul has to put up -- again -- with being a punch line in his current stand-up routine, this one called "Feel or No Feel," in which he describes his attempts to bargain for intimacy at home.

"This has changed my entire life, and it's all positive," he said.

Mandel, whose obsessive-compulsive disorder is well-documented, was asked whether he ever felt like shaking some common sense into contestants.

"I can't shake hands," he said. "I'm not going to shake people."

Mandel spoke lovingly of the show's models, whom he feels are responsible for attracting male viewers, including his 17-year-old son. The show's banker, however, whom Mandel has never met, "is a vile, vile man."

"That's where the acting comes in, because you wouldn't believe the things he says to me on the phone to get me going," he said.

"This job is the most fun I've ever had out of anything I've ever done."

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