Peter Hopper Stone, Usa
Howie Mandel and Tony Shalhoub on tonight's episode of "Monk."

Howie Mandel guest stars on tonight's episode of "Monk," which is sort of like a real-life Monk meets the fictional version.

Mandel, the actor/comedian/host of "Deal or No Deal," has the same obsessive-compulsive disorder as the character Tony Shalhoub plays on "Monk" (10 p.m., USA).

"I have been watching it for years and I'm a big fan of (star) Tony (Shalhoub)'s, a big fan of the show," Mandel said in a conference call with TV critics. "And I actually think of it as more of a self-help show for me.... It makes me feel very not alone in the world. He portrays what I live inside."

That's not an unusual reaction from someone who has OCD. "I get it all the time," Shalhoub said. "People approach me on a regular basis. And they're always saying that they feel like Monk has helped them and that the show has kind of de-stigmatized the disorder.

"And that's kind of gratifying because that's really not something we intended from the start. It's just kind of a happy accident that's happened."

In tonight's episode, Mandel plays a cult leader who tries to cure Monk's OCD.

"I have to get him out of his habits of wanting to use the hand wipes," Mandel said. "Which is pretty funny, knowing who I am and what I deal with each and every day."

OCD afflicts more than 2 million Americans, and "Tony has been brilliant in putting a face and a form of entertainment to this very serious disorder," Mandel said. "And it is a serious disorder.

"Even though I poke fun at it and I don't shake hands and I've talked about one small aspect of being a germaphobe, it encompasses your life," he said. "So to see a character like this on television, it does de-stigmatize. And it has brought it out of the closet."

Monk is "a great caricature of the hell that anybody who has it has to deal with each and every day. And I have to deal with each and every minute of my life.

"In fact, as I speak to you, I'm on a speaker phone because I don't want to touch the receiver."

He was joking. I think.

Mandel isn't complaining or self-pitying. He didn't elaborate on his OCD, except to say, "I have been known to spend countless hours trying to wash my hands. That's when it disrupts your normal flow of life.

"I have all the coping skills and all the help I need. I think it's tough for anybody to get through a day. I happen to have OCD.... I'm a big proponent of people getting help. I don't care if you have OCD or anything. I believe there isn't a person alive that doesn't need therapy, that doesn't need coping skills whether you're dealing with the pressures of work, relationships, physical ailments (and) coping skills."

It's something that he has learned to control, but it's not like he's been "cured."

"I happen to be surrounded by great people and I attend therapy and I have a lot of help. I'm highly functioning and I'm doing fine in the world. But I have to deal with it each and every day."

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