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IT HAPPENED TO ME: I Was Howie Mandel

In an instant, everything you thought you knew can be turned completely upside down. One minute you’re living your normal life, and the next you’re someone you don’t even recognize. I know this all too well, because it happened to me: For five long, dark years, I was Howie Mandel.

You have no idea what it’s like until it happens to you. You pass Howie Mandel on the street and you think, “I’ll never be him.” But one day, you look in the mirror and you hear a Deal Or No Deal producer say, “Howie, you gotta go live in 15 minutes.” That’s when you realize how bad things have truly gotten.

Everyone jokes about the burnout kid from high school who is surely going to fall into a life of being Howie Mandel. But it truly can happen to anyone. I earned good grades in school, landed a great job, and had a long-term, stable girlfriend. I didn’t even realize it was happening; then one morning, someone fist-bumped me and congratulated me for creating Bobby’s World, and that’s when I saw who I’d become.

I was Howie Mandel for so long, the people closest to me didn’t even recognize me anymore. They would come up to me and say, “Excuse me, are you the guy from Deal Or No Deal!” or “Oh, my god, Howie! Can we get a picture?” The only support I got was from my family. Or at the time, Howie Mandel’s family, because mine could no longer recognize me. Howie’s family loved and cherished me without judgment during this very dark time in my life. The Mandels really helped me get through this, and I am forever grateful to them for that.

I was Howie Mandel for so long, the people closest to me didn’t even recognize me anymore.

Before I completely bottomed out, I always thought being Howie Mandel looked kinda fun, if you just did it once or twice: being on TV, going to movie premieres, hanging out with Hollywood A-listers. Sure, it’s fun at first explaining the rules of Deal Or No Deal and palling around with contestants, but before you know it, you’re standing around in your living room still in your bathrobe at 4 p.m. wondering why Tom Bergeron isn’t returning your calls.

By that point, you’ve been played out. Tossed out with the trash. Then a business leadership conference in Cincinnati calls asking you to host a seminar, and you know it’s degrading and they’ll make you do a Deal Or No Deal bit, but goddamn you need the money. You think, “Maybe I should shave for this one.” Then you decide not to. You wonder if you can get them to fly you out first class if you grovel for long enough. Probably not, though.

Even though I’m better now, these thoughts still give me intense anxiety. I wouldn’t wish being Howie Mandel on anyone. Not even my worst enemy.

Not everyone gets a second chance after becoming Howie Mandel. I am one of the lucky ones. I finally feel like me again after two years clean of being Howie Mandel. If you know someone who is Howie Mandel, please reach out and try to help them. Even if they resist and say, “No, I’m the actual Howie Mandel,” still do everything you can to get them help. Trust me, they’ll thank you for it later.