When a 26-year-old Howie Mandel auditioned for “St. Elsewhere” in 1982, he thought he was trying out for his dream job: a sitcom. Needless to say, the Canadian stand up comedian was extremely confused by the script’s serious tone.
“The tortuous not-funny sitcom, it doesn’t even make sense to me,” he recalled. “I’m going, ‘D5 lactated, ringers, colloid, O- negative blood intubation tray’… I have no idea what I was reading for and it just wasn’t funny. This is like the worst sitcom I’ve read in my life.”
Mandel accepted the part of Dr. Wayne Fiscus, despite the humorless audition. As a rambunctious ER intern, Dr. Fiscus was one of “St. Elsewhere’s” most beloved characters, and Mandel quickly became one of the show’s rising stars. He spent six years as an ensemble cast member of the groundbreaking medical drama, developing his dramatic chops while still infusing his character’s storyline with his signature goofball comedic persona. Like so many of his up-and-coming cast mates, “St. Elsewhere” acted as a launch pad for Mandel’s long and successful Hollywood career, including leading roles in cartoons, television shows and film. His most popular role to date has been as the creator and star of the long-running children’s cartoon “Bobby’s World,” based on Mandel’s favorite alter-ego, an imaginative, silly little boy named Bobby Generic.
Howie Mandel & “St. Elsewhere’s” Pioneering Filming Methods
“St. Elsewhere’s” trailblazing realistic, documentary-style shooting and extremely long takes took some getting used to for comedian Howie Mandel.
“I think we were the first show to do these long meandering shots where we would do like six pages of dialog all in one shot without a cut,” explained Mandel, describing “St. Elsewhere’s” unique cinematographic choices. “You’ll be the last one in the sixth page with two lines. If you got one word wrong, they’d go ‘Cut, from the top!’ And everybody had to go back to the top. So the pressure to be perfect was so incredible.”
Despite the pressure, Mandel thrived on the hit medical drama, expanding his repertoire from a nutty, late night comedian to a respectable dramatic actor.