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Howie Mandel Returns Home for UJA Campaign Launch

The iconic Toronto-born comedian provided a wonderfully entertaining shtick full of awkward pauses, Jewish stereotypes, and a whole lot of laughs

By: Daniel Koren
Published: August 20th, 2013 in News » World
Howie Mandel
United Jewish Appeal of Greater Toronto has hosted a selection of formidable Jewish comedians and guests at their annual campaign launch over the years, from Jason Alexander to Richard Lewis to Jeff Garlin. This year, continuing to preserve their fondness for Jewish shtick, they brought out world-famous comedian Howie Mandel, a gifted actor, television host, comedian, writer, and producer.

It also doesn't hurt that he grew up right here amongst the rest of us in Toronto's Jewish community, one of the only communities in the Diaspora that continues to grow and develop today.

Taking place at Westin Harbour Castle, Mandel's performance was preceded by a collection of videos - highlighting how UJA campaign dollars help support the Jewish community - guest appearances from Consul General of Israel for Ontario and Western Canada, DJ Schneeweiss, Director of Fundraising and Resource Development at the Jewish Agency for Israel, Danyelle Neuman, and a wonderful set by the IDF Musical Band.

The band played a medley of nostalgic folk songs, including many songs from renowned Israeli folk singer Mosh Ben Ari. As they performed to crowd of over 1,200, the Shinshinim, participants of UJA's young Israeli emissary program, danced along the aisles, in traditional Israeli fashion, cheering, clapping, and showing their solidarity with the singing soldiers on stage.

After UJA campaign chairs addressed and thanked the crowd for their ongoing support of UJA, Howie was then introduced, following a brief history of his achievements (including clips from Bobby's World, The Daily Show with Johnny Carson, an interview with George Stroumboulopoulos , America's Got Talent, and Deal or No Deal), and all proverbial hell broke loose.

"Is there a doctor in the house?" he asked the crowd, before answering himself, "are you kidding? With this many Jews here, who isn't a doctor?"

Mandel seemed comfortable and at ease, commenting on the podium that resembled a Shabbat dinner place setting, the Israeli and Canadian flags that hung proudly behind him, and talking to members of the crowd as if he's been attending Sukkot at their houses for the past ten years.

One man in the audience in particular, Dr. Marvin, was a recurring victim of Mandel's hilarious hijinks. During one comedy bit, throughout which Mandel discussed the dreaded prostate exam, he asked Dr. Marvin what was the most ridiculous thing he's ever found in a man, or woman's, well......you know....

Dr. Marvin, after citing patient-doctor confidentiality at first, eventually succumbed to Howie's charms. "Lipstick," he said, unable to hold back his laughter.

Staying with the whole 'doctor' theme, Mandel also told us of the time he told his physician that a high-pitch buzzing sound was emanating from his testicles.

It was palpable that Mandel wasn't really following any sort of routine, and felt truly at home in Toronto. "I still have my OHIP card, should probably use it while I'm here," he joked, before making quirks about how he doesn't get why women wear thongs. One audience member, Lila, called out that her daughter-in-law apparently likes to wear them, prompting Mandel to ask if he could call the daughter-in-law about it. After Lila made her way on stage, we learned that she did not know how to operate her cell phone.

Raw, improvised, uninhibited laughter.

Howie also played the 'Jew' card quite a bit, as we are known to make fun of ourselves. "So I was sitting with a few friends in New York who aren't Jews [including Heidi Klum, he later told us] and I explained I was coming to Toronto for a fundraiser for Jews." He paused.

"It was pretty hard for me to explain why Jews need the money."

He mentioned his recent trip to Israel, crashing a kid's bar mitzvah on the Masada, and how hard it is to explain the notion of a 'bris' to a non-Jewish person. "Yah, it's a great time, we got some coffee, some herring, some bagels, we're cutting my son's penis...."

After his comedy set, an interesting Q&A segment followed. The first woman attempted to ask him about a contestant on America's Got Talent but could not get out the question because Howie commented on how bad her voice sounded because she was obviously getting over being sick. The woman, however, seemed immune to his wit, and, after an incredibly uncomfortable and awkward couple of minutes asked him, "who shit in your cornflakes?"

"You did," he replied, with a smile. What a professional.

Besides the jokes, the quirks, and his restless desire to entertain, Howie also spoke of his Jewish upbringing, his lovely wife, and three children, who they've raised Jewish. "I am proud of my kids, they're making Jewish households and spreading their own tzedakah."

He ended the evening on a serious, but important note. "When you talk bout the seriousness of what UJA does and how many lives it touches, it's simply amazing," he said. "You can ask me to show up here, you tell me you're honoured to have me, but really I am the one who is honoured. You don't know how much this [tonight] makes my life, my year. Thank you."

To contribute to UJA's Annual Campaign 2014, click here.

Related articles: Howie Mandel, Comedian, United Jewish Appeal, UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, Jewish Comedian, Jewish Humor
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