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Interview with Howie Mandel of "Mobbed"
on FOX 3/29/11.
FBC PUBLICITY: The Mobbed Howie Mandel Call
March 29, 2011/9:15 p.m. PDT
Howie Mandel Ė Executive Producer, Host - MOBBED
Moderator Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by. Welcome to
Mobbed with Howie Mandel. At this time, all participants are in a
listen-only mode. Later we will conduct a question and answer session.
Instructions will be given at that time. As a reminder, this conference
is being recorded.
I would now like to turn the conference over to our host from Fox
Publicity, Miss Kim Kurland. Please go ahead.
K. Kurland Hi, everyone, I just wanted to thank you for taking part in
this call today with Howie. He is going to be talking, obviously, about
our special, Mobbed, thatís airing on Thursday night at 9:00 after
American Idol. If anybody has any followup questions after the call,
feel free to email me. My email address is Kim.Kurland@fox.com. I think
we can take our first question.
Moderator Great. One moment for the first question. Our first question
comes from Daedrian McNaughton from Premiere Guide Miami. Please go
D. McNaughton Hi, Howie, thanks for taking the call today. How are you?
H. Mandel Iím doing good and should I need any backup plans for my
career, itís a pleasure meeting you.
D. McNaughton Thanks. Can you make me laugh?
H. Mandel Well, if I canít then your magazine, I would imagine, has
D. McNaughton My first question is, Mobbed sounds like something where
youíre bound to get Ö. Can you share with us what it is about?
H. Mandel Mobbed is based on an idea thatís been popular for the last 5
years online, a flash mob. Theyíve been around for what seems to be a
long time, and for those that donít know what a flash mob is, it is the
spontaneous eruption of song and dance by strangers in a very public
place, whether itís a mall or a train station. Billions of people have
been downloading these, and I thought how can we bring this to
television and why is it more than just this two-minute song and dance.
Then I thought, what if we have to convey a private message. We all have
something in our lives that we need to share, whether itís telling your
boss to take this job and shove it, whether itís proposing to a loved
one or telling someone youíre pregnant, and then what if we took this
very private message and, unbeknownst to the receiver of this message,
took them into a very public area and relayed this very private message
in the most public, extravagant way possible with a thousand people in
song and dance? How would they react? How would we pull this off? How
can we do this?
This is the biggest undertaking, production wise, of something without a
net. Thereís no script. We donít know how it will turn out. Itís a great
blending of hidden camera, hidden agenda, and musical theater all in
one. Itís like Glee meets hidden camera meets Jerry Springer. Itís got
every emotion possible from joy, exuberance, to drama, to awkwardness,
to thrills. Itís just the most exciting television Iíve ever been part
D. McNaughton Was there anyone who was not pleased or really surprised?
H. Mandel Well, everybody is incredibly surprised, and you have to watch
it. I donít want to give it away. This is a one-time special, and the
idea that you want to wait and see whether weíre able to pull it off and
how the person would react is the seed of the show.
D. McNaughton Youíve been in showbiz for a very, very long time. Do you
have any plans of retiring anytime soon?
H. Mandel And this comes from Career magazine? Youíre asking me if Iím
going to retire? No, unless itís forced. As long as people will allow me
to do what it is that I want to do, and this is exactly what I want to
do, and FOX was nice enough to allow us to do this. This is a huge
undertaking for any network to give you this kind of money to produce
something without a net. So, no, I have no plans for retirement.
D. McNaughton Finally, if I may, can you share with us a little bit on
how your ongoing struggle with OCD has shaped your life and career?
H. Mandel Just a little bit on how my life was shaped? Sure a little
bit. I deal with it each and every day. After this call, Iím on my way
to therapy, and Iím medicated as we speak, and was medicated for this
entire production. So, this has shaped everything I do, but I donít know
how to answer it any further or deeper than that. But, this was
certainly a joy to work on, and I hope that everybody stays tuned after
Idol and watches the show. Obviously, thatís a great vote of confidence
from FOX to give me such a cherry spot on the schedule.
D. McNaughton Well, thank you very much, Howie, and all the best.
H. Mandel Thank you.
Moderator Our next question comes from the line of Alice Chapman Newgen
from The Times Courier. Please go ahead.
A. Newgen Hi, Howie, thanks so much for talking to us today.
H. Mandel Youíre welcome.
A. Newgen I have a couple questions, and the first one is: When the show
airs for the first time, what are you going to be doing? Are you going
to be sitting at home watching it with family and friends? And whatís
going to be going through your mind at that time?
H. Mandel I hope everybodyís watching. I will not be with anybody. I get
really nervous when a project, and especially this one, this one was
such a triumphant-- just to sell this show was an amazing feat because
you actually go in and you say hey I got an idea. I want to choreograph.
I want to get the best choreographers. I want to get the best music
people. I want to get the finest of everything. I want 26 cameras. I
want to light two square blocks, two city blocks. I want cranes. I want
everything that you can imagine that the most expensive exclusive
television special could have. And then the normal question that a
network would ask, ďAnd then whatís going to happen?Ē and the answer is
I donít know. Thatís whatís amazing about this show.
It was the scariest undertaking. I was so thrilled at that moment when
they said okay, so thrilled, and it turned out so fantastically. Itís so
scary. Itís nail-biting television, and I canít sit and watch with
anybody. Iím just hoping that people tune in and that they love it. I
think that there isnít anybody that there isnít something in this show
for, all ages. Itís fun for the whole family. If you like comedy,
thereís great comedy. If you like drama, thereís great drama. If you
like emotion, thereís an abundance of emotion. Itís just a great-- but I
will not be with anybody. I canít. I will be in the fetal position in a
dark corner somewhere hoping and praying that everybody enjoys it.
A. Newgen Well, after you came up with the idea for the show, what was
the next step in your involvement in firming up the format and the
details? Iím sure you had to go to the highers up to be to work on it,
but did you have a major input with the way the format is on the show?
H. Mandel Absolutely, and thatís part of the show. Youíll see that in
the show. Youíll see what was always missing for me on the Internet is,
I would see the end result of just a bunch of people dancing, but you
donít see what goes into it. This is-- youíll see everything, and Iím
involved and on camera, along with my whole producing team of choosing
someone to prank, for lack of another term, to mob, and then deciding
how weíre going to do it. And my input and pushing everybody to their
limits, everybody, every department, whether it be music, whether it be
the dance department, whether it be the set design department, whether
it be the wardrobe department, Iím involved in every facet of it, and
you will watch that. You watch the process, which actually adds more
drama to it because you see how much is involved and how many people are
involved, how many hundreds of people are involved behind the scenes,
let alone the thousand people that are dancing. You see that, and weíre
building to something that youíre clearly aware we have no idea how it
will turn out.
A. Newgen Oh, good luck with the show. Thank you very much.
H. Mandel Thank you.
Moderator Our next question if from the line of Terry Stanley from the
LA Times. Please go ahead.
T. Stanley Hello, Howie, how are you?
H. Mandel Iím doing great.
T. Stanley Thank you. So, youíve described lots of elements that are
going into the show. What, no skywriting?
H. Mandel You know what? I would have done skywriting, but it was at
night and skywriting at night, it just doesnít have the same impact.
T. Stanley Got it. Will you talk a little bit, you touched on it just a
second ago, will you talk a little or expand a little bit more on the
sort of emotional underpinnings of this show, of staging this big reveal
for someone in many cases, I think you said most of the key participants
are strangers to the folks who are being surprised? So, just talk to me,
maybe from your perspective and then from the whole broader perspective
about putting on this real optimistic, seems very kind of a
cheerleading, do-gooder kind of event for someone. Why would you do such
H. Mandel Well, itís not necessarily a cheerleading, do-gooder event.
Itís just an intimate, the basic concept was to take something that it
is traditionally intimate and making it public and public on steroids.
Itís not only, did you do it in front of everybody, but the message is
being conveyed along with a thousand strangers. And not only is there a
thousand strangers, but thereís a thousand strangers singing and
dancing. And not only is there a thousand strangers singing and dancing,
but is being recorded and for a television special. So, it goes beyond
your wildest dreams.
And the idea, the emotion of it is, you donít know how somebodyís going
to react. You donít even know -- youíre saying itís uplifting... we
donít know that for sure. We donít know whether, even if itís a
proposal, that somebodyís going to say yes. In fact, by choosing the,
Iím using the wrong term, but by choosing the victim, we chose somebody
that wasnít cut and dry. We chose, whether itís a proposal, we wanted
somebody with somewhat of a rocky relationship, because we want to see
how far we can push it and thatís me. Iím always one that wants to push
the envelope. I want it to be a little edgy. I want it to be on the
edge. I donít want to just see, if itís a proposal, I donít want to see
two people who have been together forever and for sure sheís just going
to say yes and this is going to be her dream. I want it to be a little
rocky. Maybe this will throw them. Maybe this will not work out the way
we would hope. That gives me the nail-biting aspect of the show. Itís
not clear-cut how itís going to end and where itís going to go to.
By the same token, even if it is a yes on a proposal, then I want to
push it even farther and say, ďWell, if you say yes are you willing, in
a giant musical, to get married right now?Ē Is somebody that ready to
take that plunge? These are all very ďdangerousĒ choices. But, we wanted
some danger. We wanted some funny, and before itís even asked and before
we embark on the actual mob, thereís a hidden camera element where we
put people through kind of an obstacle course of emotions before we even
embark on the mob. So, it was quite an undertaking, quite scary. But, if
I feel comfortable then it usually doesnít entertain me. If I feel like
Iím on the edge and itís somewhat awkward and somewhat uncomfortable, to
me, thatís almost good entertainment.
T. Stanley Is there a possibility that this could become a series?
H. Mandel Thatís up to the public. Ultimately, I just had this idea to
do this special and FOX believed in it so much that, number one, they
Number two, they scheduled it in a plum spot, and if the audience should
decide that they want to tune in or stay tuned in after Idol and watch
it, I would imagine thereís a possibility that they could call me and
ask me to do more, and Iím available.
T. Stanley Thanks, Howie. Good luck with it.
H. Mandel Thank you.
Moderator Our next question is from the line of Reg Seeton of the
thedeadbolt.com. Please go ahead.
R. Seeton Hey, Howie, thanks for taking the call. Can you talk about
preparing for the event and some of the things you werenít expecting to
H. Mandel Well, in preparing for a flash mob, number one, I donít nor
does even the top choreographers in town, know a thousand dancers that
are willing to show up. So, the first order of business was how do we
accumulate this many people? We want it to look bigger than anything
youíve seen on the Internet, bigger than anything youíve ever seen on
television. So, how do we get these people? So we did things like,
Napoleon and Tabitha who are renowned choreographers, made a YouTube
video of the choreography and posted it. We were surprised to find that
they have this huge international following. We only had 48 hours to put
it together. People flew in from Canada just to dance with them, just to
be choreographed by Napoleon and Tabitha. We had no idea what would show
up and how many people, how big a crowd. Depending on that, that was
very loose. Itís not like-- these are not paid performers. These are
just people that will show up and be part of it, part of the public. So,
that was one.
Number two was: Will the person that this is all meant to give a message
to, will that person show up? Anything can happen in that two days,
since we decide to do it. They donít have to show up. And then if they
do show up, how will they react? And will they just turn and run away or
will they react badly or will this whole thing go south? The last lady
was asking me about this very uplifting, well even something that can
seem uplifting, like a proposal, can turn very dark. Somebody can be
rejected. We can end up with a dance number to no one. You donít know.
And, then how will they react if they do stay? Will you get emotion?
Will they become emotional? Will it be given away before? Thatís also
scary. Thereís so many loose ends in this whole production that therein
lies our fear. I didnít sleep for almost a week just trying to put this
R. Seeton What is it about surprising people in real life thatís so
rewarding to you?
H. Mandel Because I think thatís the only real reality TV there is. I
think when people arenít expecting it, I think itís the most relatable
television there is, because you put yourself in that position. You put
yourself in their shoes. How would you react to that? And youíre getting
something thatís not scripted, thatís not produced, thatís very real,
and I think thereís something fascinating and weíre all fascinated by
watching something real, whether that real be uplifting or youíre
craning your neck and watching a train wreck off the side of the
freeway. Thatís what we seem to be drawn to. And thatís what, more than
evening comedy, more than a joke, I likeÖ when people, thatís why I like
hidden camera. I like-- Allen Funt was my hero. I like seeing how people
react in real situations.
R. Seeton Thanks, Howie.
H. Mandel Thank you.
Moderator Our next question is from Simon Applebaum from Tomorrow Will
Be. Please go ahead.
S. Applebaum Well, itís Tomorrow Will Be Televised on Ö talk radio show.
Itís an Internet radio show covers Ö. Howie, who did you get to
coproduce this show with you? Did you talk to the Deal Or No Deal people
Ö or whoís on board with you?
H. Mandel My partners are a company called Angel City Factory who was
partners with me and a couple of other people, Three Arts, which is my
management company, and Kevin Healy, who I did Howie Do It with, and
Alevy, which is my company, are the four partnersÖ.and Howard Kitrosser
and Darryl Trell, the young guys who originally came up with the
R. Seeton How long did it takeóI understand it took like 48 hours for
you to gather the people in the flash mob, have them rehearse the number
and do it, but how long did it take in terms of figuring these are the
people we are going to surprise, or try to surprise, hereís where weíre
going to actually physically do the routine and so on and so forth? Give
me a sense of timeframe.
H. Mandel About a month. We hired a casting person to put ads in
nationally in newspapers, asking people if they had, and various
Websites asking people if they had a private message that they wanted
help conveying and if they would be interested in doing it in a public
way, and we got a lot of responses. In fact, on the show on Thursday
night, at the end of the show, I have a call to action which I continue
to produce to say if you have an idea or you have a message or a
surprise, or youíd like to surprise somebody, or tell somebody, or quit
a job or do something, contact us at a certain website. And then we
started receiving video tapes and messages and my partners and I, we
just screened them all and decide why we believe that this was a good
R. Seeton Iím assuming that everything so far, that everything was taped
in advance. Was there any thought about doing the show live or at least
doing the reveal live?
H. Mandel There was no talk of that because at the time when we did the
show, there was no air date. If we did some in the future, that would be
something to talk about, but at that time, nobody knew how it was going
to turn out. So, itís one thing for FOX to commit this amount of money
to produce the show. Itís another thing for them to commit an hour of
television to something. Now that they see that we can do it and it does
work, who knows, the next time you see it, if weíre lucky enough to do
another one, if you would see it live. But at that point, no, we just
R. Seeton Howie, thanks very much. Good luck on Thursday.
H. Mandel Thank you.
Moderator Our next question is from Jamie Steinberg from Starry
Constellation Magazine. Please go ahead.
J. Steinberg Hi, itís a pleasure to speak with you, Howie.
H. Mandel Nice to be spoken to.
J. Steinberg I loved the pumpkin you received recently.
H. Mandel Well, thank you, me too.
J. Steinberg I was wondering what makes a good contestant? What about
the story pitch made you say we have to do that?
H. Mandel The two things that we looked for is relatability, number one.
First of all, to the people that we are going to send the message to, we
want them to be somebody that hopefully the audience is vested in and
wants to watch and wants to see how they turn out. If you donít care
about the people, number one, then youíre not going to care about the
Number two, I wanted their story to be as much as usual and relatable, I
wanted it to be unusual. I wanted it to be not just from A to B. I
wanted to be able to take some turns, so if you were going to propose, I
wanted it to not be, I think I mentioned this before, as smooth a
relationship-- I wanted it to be a little rocky. I wanted to play with
that rockiness. We do, in the proposal. In this particular couple, there
are some trust issues that theyíve been grappling with, so why donít we
just take those trust issues and magnify them and have fun with that. We
look for some layers, and we want it to be a little bit complicated and
at the same time incredibly relatable and likeable and relatable people.
J. Steinberg Youíre a big part of Twitter. Why is that such an important
place for you as far as promotion and connecting with your fans?
H. Mandel More than promotion, it keeps me informed. Right now, the
people Iím following Iím aware of whatís going on, and the people who
are following me are aware of whatís going on, and thereís only 140
characters. I have ADHD. Itís a great way to communicate and not spend
too much time on one particular subject, and Iím just a huge fan of
J. Steinberg What would you like to say to everybody who is a fan and
supporter of you and your work?
H. Mandel Well, keep supporting and keep watching and Thursday night,
right after Idol, watch Mobbed.
J. Steinberg Great. Thank you.
H. Mandel Thank you.
Moderator And the last question we have is from Kristyn Clarke of
popculturemadness.com. Please go ahead.
K. Clarke Hi, Howie, thank you for taking our call. Iím curious. Is
there a story in particular that touched your heart while working on the
H. Mandel Yes, and it would be the one that youíre going to see on
Thursday night, and I donít want to give too much away because the whole
crux of the show, you know that weíre delivering a message and you know
if youíve been watching the ads at all that itís a proposal, but I donít
want to give away what was touching and what was emotional and some of
the things we did because the surprise element of the show is what makes
the audience and you stay tuned to the show. There are moments when I
was touched and worried that it was going wrong and going south. Will it
even happen? How will she react and can we go forward? Can we go all the
I was always, as a producer, I was always concerned with if it goes the
wrong way, and there is no wrong way, can we create a train wreck? Can
we make good television out of a train wreck? And the answer is yes. So,
you donít know if youíre going to watch something incredibly uplifting
or youíre going to watch a phenomenally entertaining train wreck. Nobody
really knows what it is, and I donít want to give too much away.
K. Clarke How much research did you put into the flash mob phenomenon
prior to the show?
H. Mandel Well Iím nuts about sitting on the Internet constantly, and
Iíve been a fan. The first time I think I saw flash mobs was maybe five
years ago, and Iíve been informed since that networks have pitched it
numerous times. In fact, theyíve even shot pilots. I donít know that FOX
has, but other networks have shot pilots and it hasnít really worked
out, and I was wondering why 2 billion people are downloading these
things or watching these things, or 20 billion people worldwide, we did
some research, yet, they canít make a television show out of it. And I
think the missing ingredient was a story. What is the story behind the
flash mob? Is there a reason for the flash mob? How do you build the
flash mob? And how are people reacting?
Itís not just about-- itís very passive when you see it online. A bunch
of people are dancing in a mall and people just walk by and go, ďOh
look, people are dancing,Ē and they snap a picture. But, what if we got
into peopleís lives and it was more emotional and there was a reason for
it and you watch the people behind the scenes, how much it was at stake
even for us as producers to try to build this and put this on. Therein
lies about three or four different levels or stories. And thatís what
television is. Television is a medium where we can tell a story and
thatís what weíve done using the element of the flash mob.
K. Clarke Of course. And finally, was there ever a time while filming
that you were saying to yourself, thereís no way we are going to pull
H. Mandel Yes, in fact, in the midst of it youíll see me say that. In
the midst of the production, yes. And I didnít sleep for a week. It was
the scariest thing Iíve ever done, the most exhilarating thing Iíve ever
done, the most emotional thing Iíve ever done, and many times throughout
it I thought I had made the biggest mistake of my life.
K. Clarke Best of luck with the show. Thank you.
H. Mandel Thank you.
K. Kurland Are there any more questions?
Moderator There are no additional questions at this time. My apologies.
Bill Harris from Sun Media just queued up. Please go ahead.
B. Harris Hey, Howie, how are you doing? I just wanted to ask in terms
of your fascination with sort of watching peopleís reactions, and I know
that has been one of your main go to guys, both as a performer and as
the things you like, with Allen Funt, etc, Iím wondering if there are
limits to that in your pursuit of that. As long as weíre on a Ö I
remember an episode of the Simpsons years ago when Homer puts police
tape all around Ned Flanderís house, and then comes out laughing when
Ned thinks his family is dead, and Homerís laughing going, ďThatís why
it was so funny because you thought they were dead.Ē Have there been
times in your life, either with standup or with this show or other
things, where youíve thought, ďGeez, thatís a little too far. I donít
want to make people that uncomfortable.Ē
H. Mandel Well, yes is the answer to your question. I think one can go
too far. I try not to go too far. Sometimes we make impulsive decisions.
The beauty, and also the horror, of doing shows like this and doing what
I do is you donít know how people are going to react. You donít know
what button youíre going to hit. As much as thatís exciting or
entertaining, I would be devastated if somebody was hurt by this.
Ultimately, my goal is to entertain and especially with a show like
this, entertain the whole family. I want kids to sit around. I want the
parents to sit around. I want everybody to watch the show.
The answer to your question, one more time, is yes. I donít
intentionally go too far, but when you are dealing with something that
is unscripted and you donít know and itís not somebody who has been
hired, the person that the prank is on is not somebody that has been
hired and vetted and theyíre not reciting lines and theyíre not being
produced as it were, you donít know where youíre going to take them. So,
that is always an element of fear and angst in my world. And I have to
say as much as people have written in the past that some of the hidden
camera pieces Iíve done are mean, you have to also realize that if you
saw it, then ultimately these people were on board and signed a release
and were more than happy to be part of this. Everybodyís entitled to
their opinion. But, yes it can go very wrong. It can go bad. That is the
excitement of doing the show and in no way do I want to see it go wrong.
The Simpsons show, as youíre quoting from, is an animated show, and they
can go much farther in animation then we can in real life and by no
means would I ever tread that far where somebody thinks that a loved one
B. Harris And I was not suggesting you do that.
H. Mandel You will never see that on Mobbed.
B. Harris Do you think that, last thing, very quickly, do you think that
this is almost a direct correlation to your standup route? Because it
would seem to me that this sort of fascination with reaction, thatís
what I hear time and again from people who are strong stand up
comedians, like where you came from, where you kind of craved that
reaction whether itís good or bad. You love seeing that look in peopleís
eyes of whatís going on in their heads.
H. Mandel Well, what I do love, I always come back in all the different
facets of my career, standup is still very prominent. I do 150 live
dates a year, and what I love about it and what I do if you ever come
see me live, a lot of it is improvised, and itís an interaction between
me and the audience. So, yes this is an extension. This is like FOX has
given me all the tools and the toys that I canít afford to take on the
road and canít be part of my standup act, and this is my standup act
plus Glee plus the reality TV plus hidden camera on steroids.
B. Harris Alright. Thanks, Howie.
Moderator We have no additional questions, please continue.
H. Mandel So then, I just want to say since there are no questions, this
is Howie talking, that I just want to thank everybody, number one, for
participating in this. This has been such an important project as far as
I was concerned. I never dreamed in my wildest dreams, that I wanted to
do this, and from the first time I saw a flash mob online, and I never
dreamed that I would be given the opportunity. I understand, Iíve been
in the business for over 30 years and I understand production, and I
understand the amount of money and what it takes to put on a show, and
to go to a network with an idea that is virtually insane because this
was a huge undertaking and Iím sure a lot of you on the line have seen
the show, itís a huge production. Itís a very expensive undertaking, and
to have FOX support me in the sense that this could have fallen apart at
any given moment, and they committed to me is just a huge joy and a
pinnacle, one of the few pinnacles in my career, to just allow me to do
this as a producer and to allow me to put it together. And the fact that
once we put it together, and itís a show that Iím very proud of, to give
me this cherry scheduling spot is even another great pat on the back.
Hopefully, you and the press will support me and get as many of your
readers out there to see it and just watch it and to enjoy it like I
enjoyed producing it. Just enjoy it. I think itís a great hour of
television, and Iím proud to be part of it. I would love to do more but
if I never get to do more, Iím so thrilled that I got to do this. Thatís
it. Thank you. And if you have any further questions, youíll get in
touch with FOX.
Update: FOX has ordered 8 more episodes of the show!
Howie Mandel scores another series, Mobbed on FOX
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