Less than a year later, Mandel did a set at the famous Comedy Store in Los Angeles. From there his career took off. He would go on to make more than 20 appearances on "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson." He added acting to his resume in the 80s, playing Dr. Wayne Fiscus for six years on the Emmy Award-winning drama, "St. Elsewhere," and delved in film and voice-over work.
Mandel's only unexplored territory as a performer was hosting his own talk show. That opportunity came in 1998 with "The Howie Mandel Show." During this time, Mandel was still publicly shaking hands, but kept a bucket of Purell under his desk.
"I would constantly be soaked with Purell. And I also had my friend as a surgeon and I had a surgical scrub that I would do before and after the show," he said. "My hands were raw and I had no antibodies and I started getting warts and it was -- I was a mess."
The show was canceled after just one season. When Mandel was ready to leave TV, the phone rang; it was a call about "Deal Or No Deal." At first, he turned it down. He said he found the offer insulting. But Terry convinced him otherwise. She told him to take the deal.
"This is probably the most notoriety I've had over a 30-some-odd career," Mandel said.
Mandel is using his new fame to help shed the stigma attached to mental health. He recordered a public service announcement for anxiety disorders and is testifying on Capitol Hill.
"You know, in the middle of a workday, wherever you work in America, if you got up and say, 'I'm gonna go see my dentist,' nobody would even flinch," Mandel said. "But if you got up in the middle of the day and said, 'You know what, I gotta go, I'm having a little issue. I've gotta go to my psychiatrist. I'll be back in an hour.' I think that people would -- 'Did he just say he's going to the psychiatrist?' …There's a stigma."
He told "20/20" that he sees a therapist and is pleased with the anti-anxiety medication that he has been taking for the past two months.
Despite his fear of germs, the "Deal Or No Deal" host still tours the country 200 nights out of the year, performing stand-up comedy. Though staying in hotels is difficult since he won't touch the comforter, the shower floor, or the phone, he said he does it because he feels most at home on stage.
"Regardless of what I do, whether I write a book or whether I act or whether I host, I'll always do stand-up comedy because those moments, that's what I crave," he said. "If I do something funny and I hear a crowd laugh in that moment, we're all sharing the exact same experience and the exact same feeling. And that's the only time when I feel part of the world."
For more information on OCD, visit the Obsessive Compulsive Foundation, the Anxiety Disorders Association of America's Web site, and Howie Mandel's official Web site.