Howie Mandel returned to NBC this week as host of the new game show Take It All based on one of the most wildly popular holiday party games in America called “White Elephant” or “Yankee Swap.”
After a successful debut this past Monday, Take It All airs throughout the holiday week of December 14. In the show, with Howie Mandel hosting the game, a contestant selects and opens a prize worth thousands of dollars; dream prizes such as luxury cars, exotic trips, jewelry and VIP experiences. Then, the next player is faced with a dilemma: do they steal a prize that has already been revealed, or do they take a chance with another unopened prize, hoping what’s inside is worth more?
With Take It All now on the NBC airwaves, The Deadbolt caught up with Howie Mandel to get the scoop on the game, how it’s different than the home version, which game shows Take It All is similar to, and how Mandel had to adjust to being a game show host after Deal or No Deal.
THE DEADBOLT: How is this game different from what people play in their homes each year?
HOWIE MANDEL: Well, if you play this in your home, I’m coming to your home, because I don’t know that people give away cars and anything from hovercrafts to exotic vacations. This is beyond any gift that Secret Santa would have. And then, what we did was, obviously that was the theme of the idea, and I had gone to a few parties and had seen this, and watched the type of the gamesmanship and people play against each other. So, the simplicity of it is everybody comes out, we start with five, everybody comes out with a different prize. So, if you pick a car and the next person picks a hovercraft, whoever ends up with the least expensive prizes gives it back and goes home.
Eventually we end with two people that have a veritable cornucopia of extravagant prizes. And then they can pick cash, a 1/4 of a million dollars, hundreds of thousands of dollars, and then they have a choice. And I don’t think they do this in the house, but their two choices are keep it, so they can keep everything that they have, or take it all.
If one of them decides to take it all, they get everything that they’ve accumulated throughout the hour, plus what their opponent has accumulated and they end up with tons of money and prizes and cash. But here’s the catch: If they both decide to take it all, they both end up with nothing. And neither of them knows what the other is going to do, so it’s great gamesmanship, because it’s like poker. They get a chance to face-off each other and against each other what they’re going to do and it’s the most surprising social experiment I’ve ever been part of.
I thought Deal or No Deal was an incredible social experience, this takes it to the next level.
THE DEADBOLT: It sounds like it’s like Let’s Make a Deal meets the Price Is Right’s “Showcase Showdown.” Is that accurate?
MANDEL: Well, I keep saying the Price Is Right and Deal or No Deal, not Let’s Make a Deal. Deal or No Deal meets The Price Is Right. But you don’t know what the gift that you’re opening is. You walk out there and a contestant, like in your home, is opening the prize and you’re sitting there with a brand new Mercedes. You can decide the range of value in that round. You can say, “You know what? I’m going to take that Mercedes away from them,” or you can take something that’s unopened. You don’t know if you’re opening something of more value or less value, or that you’ve just made a great decision or that you just blew it for yourself. There are more decision points in this game than any other game that I’ve been a part of.
THE DEADBOLT: From a career standpoint, after Deal or No Deal, how did you have to change your perception of what a game show host was to fit who you are?
MANDEL: I didn’t. It was the other way around. I said before Deal or No Deal that I did not want to be a game show host. After a career in stand-up comedy, the irony of being a game show host was probably something that I would have made fun of and more than I’d want to be. What happened was, when I was presented with Deal or No Deal, I had all of these plans about how I would do it and how I’d approach it.
I hearken back to Groucho Marx when he did his game show. Johnny Carson did a game show. Regis Philbin, he wasn’t a stand-up but made his move into game shows. So I thought about how I’d approach it. And then what happened was the first day on set, when I was looking into the eyes of a real person, I realized that there was so much at stake for the contestant that any plan I had to be “a host” fell by the wayside. I was just myself.
I ended up using every tool that I had acquired throughout my career in all aspects of what I do. First and foremost, stand-up and having to react in the moment and improvise, because it’s happening live, Whether it’s humor or not, you have to have a quick response to what’s happening. And then to acting in so far as creating drama for the game and how many different ways I can create drama when opening a case. By the same token with this show, who has the least expensive gift, who’s going home and who’s moving on. I mean, that comes from my acting chops that I began on St. Elsewhere. And then to being a producer. I”ve produced many shows in the past and understand how a show is put together and what’s needed for the show to become what it becomes.
So, what I took away from it, I didn’t become a host, I happened to be hosting a show. I realized that what works best for me is to just remain myself. The truest form of who I am each and every day is who you saw on Deal or No Deal and who you see on Take It All. It’s not me doing acting. It’s not me doing stand-up. It’s just me.