Mo Mandel Talks Booze, Nesting Dolls and His New Show Barmageddon

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Comedian Mo Mandel’s new series Barmageddon premiered recently on TruTV. On the show, bar owners swap establishments and compete to see who is the better manager. The series premiere takes place in New York, and pits bar owners against each other to discover who can run the more lucrative business model.

In the premiere, two New York bars faced off: an old school, local Queens establishment, ‘The Attic,’ v. a male Go-Go bar in Hell’s Kitchen, ‘The Fairy Tail Lounge.’ Big personalities collide and compromise during a night where hangovers are caused by more than alchohol.

You’ll recognize the show’s host/stand-up comedian Mo Mandel from Chelsea Lately,Conan, Craig Ferguson, and probably your local bar. Paste caught up with the charming comedian to talk about the show, bars, and all things libations related.

Paste: So, tell me a bit about the show.

Mo Mandel: It’s whacky. To me, it’s just like pure entertainment, crazy, hilarious fun TV. Just a chance to take your mind off all the depressing things in the world and just watch this sort of carnival go down.

Paste: I was curious as to how the idea came about, and how’d you get involved?

MM: The idea was actually developed by Jeff Gaspin who was the former president of NBC. I’m not sure how he came up with it. The way I got involved was they saw me on Chelsea Lately, a show I used to do a lot, and it was one of those lucky breaks where the right person sees you when the right project is around. We shot a pilot in Baltimore in January, and apparently it was one of the higher testing pilots they had at TruTV. People just flipped over it, and so they ordered eight more episodes and I spent the majority of the fall drinking in bars around the country.

Paste: You poor thing.

MM: My brother is a lawyer, and we’d be on the phone everyday, and he’d go over what he did, and I’d be like, I had 17 drinks and I interviewed a drunk bartender, and he’d be like, “God I hate you so much.”

Paste: What kind of cities did you go to, and was there one that stuck out as having the most interesting bar culture?

MM: We shot in Baltimore, New York, Southern Florida, and Chicago. Chicago was a city I had never really been before. I performed stand up comedy in most cities in America. For some reason, downtown Chicago, I’d just never been, and it’s now my favorite city. It’s awesome. There’s a huge bar culture. People are all about going out there. Great restaurants. It was really the only job that college actually prepared me for: Whiskey in my bloodstream? I remember that lesson.

Paste: Any strange or funny stories?

MM:We were shooting in this bar in Lake Worth, which is about an hour outside of Miami, and I got hit on by this classic Florida older cougar. I guess beyond a cougar, really. She was like, 70. She had that Florida skin that looks like melted pennies. And she starts hitting on me, “Oh, you’re a TV host.” I’m like, “You’re 70, I think you’re a little too old.” And without missing a beat, she goes, “Well, I also have a daughter.” And I was like, first of all, that’s weird for you to say that, but if you’re 70, your daughter is probably too old for me too, and she goes, “Well, I also have a granddaughter.” I was like, what are you, a Russian nesting doll?

Paste: Any drink that really astounded you? Any cocktail, beer?

MM: It was interesting. I’m a very traditional guy when it comes to alcohol. I’m a beer and a shot kind of guy. And so I had virtually no experience with mixology because I’m cheap, and I’m a very fast drinker anyway, so I feel like if something tastes too good I just chug it like a Snapple. But some of these places were just amazing, where they would be like, grinding up their own ginger root to put a little extra thing in there and they’d make their own beers. They would mix things together, and it would sound like it would be disgusting. Then you drink it, and it’s like, oh my god. I really like going to good restaurants when I’m lucky enough to be able to go, and it really felt like that same thing, where your tongue is tasting things that you just never experienced before. I never realized you could put lavender into alcohol and as long as no one sees you drinking it, it’s a wonderful experience.

Paste: Tell me about an interesting bar you went to.

MM: There was one bar that we shot at outside of Miami that was really interesting, where their whole concept was self-serve. They had six giant freezers of every kind of craft beer that you’ve never heard of. Just the most obscure craft beer. You walk in, and they give you an empty six pack. As you’re going through, you drink, and then you put your empties into the six pack, and as you leave, you pay for it. It’s basically like going into your friend’s awesome beer basement. That was pretty cool, ‘cause you’d get to try all these local artisan beers that you’d never get a chance to before.

Paste: That sounds awesome! Do you guys have a lineup of cities that you want to see for season 2?

MM: I’m rallying for Nashville, Austin and New Orleans. I also think it would be fun to go and shoot in San Francisco, which is where I started in stand up comedy and where I used to bartend. I’d like to try to bartend in one of the bars that fired me.

Paste: That would be hilarious.

MM: I’d be like, “What’s up motherfuckers! I’m back, with a TV crew.”

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