How We Met Howie

Howie Mandel and Jonathan Winters in Certifiably Jonathan

The summer of 2005. It was at the point in the making of Certifiably Jonathan that we were trying to get as many great comedians in the film as possible to help Jonathan find his sense of humor.

One day, we (Jim Pasternak, Richard Marshall and I) were invited to the premiere of The Artistocrats, which we attended that night. Red carpet, press and lots of comedians. After the show, there was a reception outside. Most of the moviegoers hung around, schmoozing, milling about, talking, drinking, eating hors d’oeuvres. I spot Howie Mandel and zoom in.

Now, there’s some guy chewing Howie’s ear off about some project, and Howie looks really bored. The guy keeps talking and talking and talking, and Howie’s face goes from boredom to slight annoyance to more than slight annoyance. The guy will not shut up. I was standing there the whole time, and Howie gives me a “don’t even try talking to me” look. He’s obviously fed up with people droning on and on at him. He was just too polite to tell the guy to buzz off.

Finally, the guy shuts up, and it’s just me and Howie, and his stare said it all: “do not bother me right now.” I spoke up anyway, saying to him, “Jonathan Winters is a big fan of yours.” Howie’s face instantly lit up like a Christmas tree. “You know Jonathan Winters?” he asked. “He’s my idol. He’s the whole reason I became a comic.” I then proceeded to explain to Howie how Jonathan had lost his sense of humor and needs to get it back, and I asked him if he could help Jonathan find it. Howie responded, “I’ll take him to Target. You can find anything there.”

Exactly two weeks later, we were filming Howie Mandel and Jonathan Winters messing around in a Target store, seeking assistance from the employees and customers, to help Jonathan find his sense of humor.

When Howie met Jonathan in the parking lot of Target, it was the first time ever. Howie was all smiles, so excited and in awe. He looked like a kid meeting Babe Ruth. I think we made his day. He made ours too, with some of the funniest scenes in Certifiably Jonathan. Thanks, Howie.

-Matt Fortnow, Executive Producer

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3 Responses to How We Met Howie

  1. viviane moos says:

    Matt – very funny story – thanks! Made me laugh out loud. By the way, I have never been to a Target store because there are none in NYC . . . sigh.

  2. Devin Thomas says:

    Hey Matt!

    Great story! Did you have any trouble getting permission to film in Target? Did the Target management know who JW was? Were they fans? How high up in the company did you have to go?

    Just curious!


    • CJ says:

      The people at Target were great. I spoke to a regional manager, told him about Certifiably Jonathan and asked if we could film Howie Mandel helping Jonathan Winters find his sense of humor at the Target in Ventura. He asked if we could do it at a brand new Target in Camarillo, and I said sure.

      -Matt Fortnow

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