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Interview with Comedian Mo Mandel

Comedian Mo Mandel has come along way from the back roads of his youth in Northern California. Honing his chops in the open mics of London, Mandel quickly developed his stand up act by often being the only American in the room. Returning to California, he moved to San Francisco where be began working various day jobs while pursuing his dreams of becoming a full-time stand up comic at night.

Mo Mandel.
Courtesy photo

His number was soon called when Comedy Central declared him the winner of their 2007 Open Mic Fight; an open casting call for comics across the country to submit clips of their performances and compete against one another for a shot at a deal with Comedy Central. Mandel was selected out of thousands of comics and was soon given his own half hour comedy special--which quickly kick-started his now burgeoning career in television. We managed to catch up with Mo at his home in Los Angeles, and got him to answer a few questions about his formative years in Nor-Cal and what it was like to work with the classic TV icon, Al Bundy.

Where in Northern California did you grow up?

Mo Mandel: I grew up in a town called Boonville about three hours north of San Francisco, all Mexicans and rednecks with four Jewish families scattered around including my own. I was not popular in high school. That must be how I developed my sense of humor, because I sure as hell never developed any fighting skills. Lost many a skirmish growing up.

Where did you start doing stand up?

I had a girlfriend in London that I had met while studying abroad my junior year of college. After I graduated I was dead set against joining the real world so I moved over there to live with her as she finished up school. She was busy all the time with her finals and trying to set the ground work for her career and we didn't get along so well so I wandered into the open mic comedy scene in hopes of finding something to do. I would perform at these London open mics and get booed for being American but eventually I'd learn to win the crowd over. Then after a few months I broke up with the girl, moved to San Francisco, and started doing open mics all over again.

Describe the first few years of your career in stand up comedy, from various open mic nights all the way up to winning Comedy Central's 2007 Open Mic Fight.

It was rough. Like I said, I would do open mics at night and during the day I'd work the 5am to 1pm shift at Peet's Coffee. This is all with a college degree so it's a little demoralizing to make minimum wage and serve coffee to people when you've studied at a prestigious university and yet still work the job of an eighth grader. My life changed when I got a bartending job. Now I could cut my work days to two shifts a week and focus more on stand up. I got a call from Comedy Central telling me that I had won Open Mic Fight while knee deep in a brunch bartending shift. I had to take the phone call in the bathroom, then run down stairs and make blood marys for the next eight hours, but in the back of my mind I was thinking, "I'm gonna be on Comedy Central! Make your own fucking drink!"

You recently shot a sitcom pilot, how was that experience? Did it get picked up?

It did not. A shame, written by the same guys who created Will and Grace and it had a great cast. It was a really funny show for FOX and shooting it was an amazing experience. But network TV is a very tough game, a lot of great very funny shows never see broadcast.

What can you tell us about the show you sold to the FX Network?

Sadly, cable TV is a very tough game as well. I sold and wrote a great show for FX, which is my favorite channel, makes great shows these days, but it never got produced. But most recently I have sold a new show to NBC that I am very excited about so fingers crossed. In this business you just gotta keep creating because there are so many roadblocks that can stop a project from becoming everything that you know it can be. But this time its gonna happen!

You recently guest starred on ABC’s hot show, Modern Family. What was that experience like and how was it to share screen time with Al Bundy?

It was fucking amazing! Ed O’Neill was one of my favorite actors to watch as a kid and he still is again as an adult. Modern Family is the absolute best show on TV and won the Emmy for best comedy, what comedian wouldn't be thrilled to get to be on it. It was a fun little role and Ed was so cool to work with. I will also be playing a character named "Murder" on two episodes of a new show coming out on NBC next season called, "Love Bites." It's a really funny one hour comedy that I think people are really gonna enjoy. And my character has the best name ever. I also regularly appear on Chelsea Lately which has helped me reach out to a totally new fan base: Women.

Who are some of your favorite comics to watch?

Daniel Tosh, Louis CK, Dave Attell, Chris Rock.

Can you give some advice to any aspiring comedians who might be reading this?

Become a lawyer.

Does Mo Mandel have a message for the children?

Always use condoms when smuggling heroin. Other then that, just keep on keeping on and continue searching for Bin Laden when you have the chance.

Catch Mo Mandel this Sunday, December 19 at The Onyx Room

852 Fifth Ave, San Diego, CA 92101. $7 (21+) 8 p.m.

Visit www.livecomedylive.com for more information.