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Jonathan Mangum says 'yes' to comedy

“Let’s Make a Deal” announcer Jonathan Mangum has worked with Wayne Brady for two decades, dating back to their roots in Orlando’s improv comedy scene and stretching through several of Brady’s TV gigs. The pair will hit the Seneca Niagara Events Center stage tonight for Brady’s live show.

“He’s been incredibly loyal,” Mangum said of Brady. “He brings me along for the ride.”

But don’t just bunch him with Brady. The 44-year-old actor/writer/comedian has plenty of his own comedy cred. Mangum has appeared alongside Jack Nicholson in “The Bucket List” and Eddie Murphy in “Imagine That,” among a lengthy list of film and TV gigs that also includes “The Drew Carey Show,” “NCIS,” “Married With Children” and “The Sarah Silverman Show.”

Here are excerpts of our recent interview:

Question: You do a lot, don’t you?

Mangum: I say no to nothing — except soft-core pornography, which has been good for me. I just say yes. I take the rules of improv and apply them to business.

Q: Rules of improv: Everything is a “yes and”?

A: Everything’s a “yes and.”

Q: What’s riskier for you: Improv or scripted acting?

A: It’s more risky for me with a script. A script is something that’s hammered out that cannot be touched. And then I have to be funny (in a way that is) extremely limited to what has been written. So it’s very limiting. With improv, I can do anything. No matter what I say, I know Wayne or whoever I’m doing a show with is going to “yes and” it. There are no wrong, bad choices. As long as everyone is agreeing to whatever the next person says with 100-percent commitment, you can’t go wrong.

Q: What has surprised you most about this business?

A: What’s surprised me the most is something I didn’t know in my 20s, that I do know now: Perseverance is such a big part of it. I know a lot of people that gave up early on in their career, and seen other people that weren’t as talented hang in there, and now they’re getting rewarded for it. It’s such a big piece of it, in addition to talent. Being there over and over again, being present, being part of the community, being attached and social and not giving up. There are some people that are marginally talented and just hung in there, and didn’t quit. Fifteen, 20 years later, now they’re successful.

Q: So it takes grit?

A: Yeah. Grit is a fair word. Someone pointed to me that the richest people in the world are not the smartest, because as your IQ goes up, your tolerance for risk goes down. It takes grit, and it also takes some amount of risk you can tolerate. And some people just can’t.

Q: What has it been like to watch Wayne’s ascent in the entertainment industry?

A: It’s like watching your buddy winning the Olympics. Seeing your best friend winning is super exciting. I am a talented comedian; I know that and can say that. But he is a talented comedian and a talented singer and a talented dancer. He’s got this super combination of all these things. When I see other people succeed big without all of what he has, it doesn’t seem fair. When I see him getting the accolades and stuff he deserves, it’s like, “Yes, damn right. He does it all. He needs to win at this game of Hollywood.”


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