Back in the early 1980’s, for those that were too young to appreciate Richard Pryor, there were three big stand up specials. You had BILL COSBY HIMSELF (with “The Dentist) and, if you were allowed to see it, EDDIE MURPHY DELIRIOUS (with “The Ice Cream Man”).
The third aired on HBO in 1986, HOWIE MANDEL’S NORTH AMERICAN WATUSI TOUR.
Howie had yet to become the family friendly game show host that he is today. At the time, he was best known for his role as Doctor Wayne Fiscus on ST. ELSEWHERE, that also starred a little known Denzel Washington. This was Howie's second, and best, stand up special.
It was shot on video in Chicago. Howie takes the stage and, for a little over 50 minutes, does his act.
When Howie began his game show career on DEAL OR NO DEAL, I was a bit surprised. How could the guy, whose most quoted lines in this special were unprintable here stories about bringing chocolate bars to a bathroom, or squirt guns to a movie theatre, become the host of a network game show? He can’t have that kind of humor.
In watching this special again, the first time I've seen it since the 1980’s, the strongest points of the show are his interactions with the audience. That is where the biggest laughs come.
He interviews the audience, and makes fun of their occupations (like the one guy who is in “purchasing” which Howie turns into a bit about “I’m shopping”). This is also before his OCD took over, as he has no problems, at least outwardly, of shaking hands and such.
At one point, someone in the audience yells out “Howie!!!!!”.
Howie stops, looks back out into the audience and yells back “Person!!!!!”.
At one point, someone in the audience leaves, and after Howie makes fun of them for the fact, as soon as they are out of the room, he tells the audience “Ok, everyone hide!”
My favorite bit, which kills me every time, and I can’t do justice to the delivery, talking to one person in the front row.
“What’s your name? What’s your name? What’s your name? I’ve asked you three f***ing times!!!!”
As I said, it is the audience interaction that is so much fun. When he does do his actual act, a lot of the lines do not hold up (even though many of them I remember repeating for years after). He does his “My name is Bobby” voice which he later turned into a cartoon series. And, he ends by doing his famous surgical glove over his head routine.
It still is a very funny comedy special. It may not be up there with BILL COSBY HIMSELF or DELIRIOUS, but I can remember why I enjoyed it as much as I did.
Here is a bit of the special from Youtube (someone took the videocamera and filmed the TV). If you can't see the Youtube click and are on an outside reader, click through to our blog.
Never released on DVD (might be too R-rated for current Howie fans), it can still find it on VHS on Amazon. Some copies on Ebay run up to $100!!