You would that the two longest-tenured members of the NBC’s hit reality competition show “America’s Got Talent,” host Nick Cannon and judge Howie Mandel, might be sick of spending time together. But the two multi-faceted performers don’t just like to just share screen time together; they like to share stage time doing the thing that helped launch their respective careers.
Mandel said this occurs “when the stars align” during their respective standup comedy tours. And the stars align in Central Kentucky this weekend, as Mandel and Cannon perform Saturday at the Norton Center for the Arts in Danville.
They come from different generations, but Mandel and Cannon each have distinctive yet surprisingly similar careers.
Mandel has developed his zany and wildly energetic stand-up style as one of the most popular stand-up comedians of the 1980s. His first major break on a TV show came when he acted on the medical drama “St. Elsewhere” and his voice-over talents included voicing the loveable Gizmo in the movie “Gremlins” and creating the beloved animated series “Bobby’s World” in the 1990s. He managed to be involved in yet another hit franchise the next decade, in 2008, as host for NBC’s game show “Deal or No Deal” before taking his seat at the judge’s table on “America’s Got Talent.”
Mandel has been involved in numerous other projects throughout more than 30 years in show business and admits he is “addicted to staying busy and saying yes,” but he said how he got started is still how he gets his biggest thrills.
“For me, stand-up, regardless of what I’ve done throughout my career, ... that’s the most liberating thing I do,” he said. “It’s a primal scream at the end of the day.”
Cannon’s career first gained traction when he was a teenager, when he was cast in the popular Nickelodeon sketch comedy show “All That” in the late 1990s. He continued his acting career on the big screen, most notably in the 2002 hit “Drumline,” while branching out to a successful music career, hosting and creating his popular MTV improv show ‘Wild ’n’ Out,” and becoming an executive and entrepreneur through his company, Ncredible Entertainment, and other ventures.
Asked about his various successes, Cannon said sneaking into comedy clubs to try out material before he was even a teenager helped him more than anything.
“I’ve always had a hustler’s spirit, and I think it’s something that actually stems from my stand-up days,” he said.
This current run of dates Mandel and Cannon are on will give the “America’s Got Talent” personalities and performers a chance to showcase new material. Cannon is trying out jokes to be featured in a Showtime stand-up special he plans to shoot in December. Because of their ties to “America’s Got Talent” and other family-oriented entertainment, Cannon said families might be in for a rude awakening if they show up with little ones.
“At one show we did, there was an 8-year-old in the front row. We were like, “Oooh, this isn’t AGT or Nickelodeon. ... This is a nightclub-style performance,” Cannon said.
Mandel agreed: “I wouldn’t bring the kids to this.”
If you go see Mandel and Cannon perform, you might get two very different adult-oriented comedy shows, but you will also get two comedians who appreciate what the other brings. Cannon said he watches Mandel from the side and takes mental notes as a student of the craft. Mandel said he admires Cannon’s talent and energy. At each performance, they share both the stage and respect. In general, they share a drive.
“When Nick and I get together, we kind of understand each other,” Mandel said. “Just that need to continue to be creative to whatever is offered up in front of us.”