Longtime America’s Got Talent judge Howie Mandel knows that, in many ways, he’s living a charmed life.
One way in which he’s decidedly not is his continued struggled with obsessive-compulsive disorder and the resulting fear and depression, which have been especially tricky during the coronavirus pandemic. And that’s making him feel guilty.
“If everything’s going your way, and there’s nothing wrong — but you’re sad? That’s almost harder,” Mandel told Esquire. “And that’s why it’s harder to talk about. Because I know that there’s people who are suffering, who have so much less than I have.”
Mandel said one of his colleagues, his fellow judge Heidi Klum, actually makes him feel worse, through no fault of her own.
“And how do you outwardly say, ‘I’m having a hard time?’” Mandel asked. “‘Oooo, you’re having a hard time? Look at what you have!’ You know? But honestly, I have a hard time. Nothing’s happening, and I’m going, Oh my god, I’m back here again. I’m back here again. How can I be back here again? I’m looking at Heidi Klum, she’s stunning, she’s sitting next to me, and all these people who are so excited to be here. And it really is an amazing, dreamlike environment on the set of AGT. And I’m going, What’s wrong with me? The f*** is wrong with me?”
Mandel explained to the magazine that he sometimes finds it hard to even hold his head up.
“Physically. I do it. I can pretend in that moment,” he said. “But the dichotomy between where I am, who I am, and what I’m doing versus how I feel makes no sense. I’m always searching for a way out or a way up. I can’t control when I’m overwhelmed. I go, ‘Look where I am! I’m in a f***ing ray of sunshine! I’m here. There’s music and lights and people straightening my shirt!’”
In March, Mandel wore a full hazmat suit, including gloves and a mask, to the set.
While a new season of the competition show debuted in May, he and his fellow judges, including Klum, Sofia Vergara and Simon Cowell have socially-distanced at the tapings. And still, the fear remains.
“There is nothing I’m not afraid of,” Mandel explained. “How I’m being perceived, how I look, what’s going to happen tomorrow, how yesterday went. Fear is my fuel, and also my poison.”
At the same time, he said, he likes the emotion.
“I’m a product of fear,” he said.
America’s Got Talent live shows begin Tuesday, Aug. 11 at 8 p.m. on NBC, with Kelly Clarkson filling in for Simon Cowell.
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