Born and raised in Huntington, New York, Josh Mandel received early theatrical training at both Carnegie-Mellon University and the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco. With a father in the business, Mandel got to spend much of his childhood poking around TV studios, theatrical sets, and writers’ rooms.
He left New York for the Theater Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Some of the department’s directors had been part of the comedy group Kentucky Fried Theater before the “split,” some of the members going to LA and turning the group’s act into the film Kentucky Fried Movie). Mandel and several other Theater students were heavily influenced by these experimental young directors, and formed a new Madison comedy group. Performing both in school-run and off-campus venues, they were both well-reviewed and in high demand.
The group’s members all graduated in 1980-81, dissolving the act. But just before graduating, Mandel visited another ex-cast member, Karen McVeigh, who’d moved on to LA. On a lark, they did a five-minute set at the Comedy Store using material they’d worked on in Wisconsin. Those five minutes earned them a standing ovation and an immediate offer of lengthier return engagements.
But Mandel relocated to Chicago. McVeigh joined him. They constructed a full-length act and performed hundreds of shows, as “Mandel & McVeigh,” all around Chicago, applying theatrical training to nightclub comedy and creating a highly polished act. In each show, McVeigh wore an evening gown and Mandel wore a pinstriped three-piece suit. They headlined frequently, as club managers had come to see them as a guaranteed laugh-puller. Before long, they were the House comedy act at two different clubs simultaneously, one of them the Chicago Playboy Club.
They began touring. By the time the act came to an official close in 1986, they’d appeared thousands of times, as headliners in comedy clubs, nightclubs, colleges, concerts, private parties, and (early) cable TV all over the United States and Canada.
McVeigh was starting a family. Mandel shifted to advertising, winning numerous awards for his comedic print, radio, and TV spots and campaigns. Meanwhile, he moonlighted as a SysOp on CompuServe’s seminal GAMERS Forum, and wrote for both online and print gaming magazines like VideoGames and Computer Entertainment and Tips and Tricks. While he wrote reviews, walkthrus, and other industry-related articles, he also betatested obsessively for Infocom, Sir-Tech, and Sierra.
Sierra offered him a full-time position as a Junior Producer. Within a year, he’d been promoted to Designer, and then to Director of Product Design. While co-designing his first game with Al Lowe, he also wrote manuals, hintbooks, box copy, and articles for Sierra’s Interaction magazine.
By the time he departed in 1994, he’d produced, written for, performed in, and/or co-designed 25 of Sierra’s Golden Age games. His first design, created cooperatively with industry veteran Al Lowe, was 1993’s Freddy Pharkas, Frontier Pharmacist. Computer Gaming World said Freddy could “make a jaded player laugh out loud frequently.” While at Sierra, Mandel also provided voicework for many games, originating the voice of King Graham in King’s Quest V. (He continued to play that role, in sequels and fangames, for 20 more years.)
At Legend Entertainment, Mandel designed the 1997 game Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon, based on Spider Robinson’s series of short stories and books. This time, Computer Gaming World called it “the funniest game since…well, since Freddy Pharkas.” Callahan’s can be found on numerous lists of the greatest and funniest PC adventures of all time.
His dialogue writing on Jagged Alliance 2 helped it set a standard for character development in strategy games. He has designed and written dozens more games and simulations for a wide variety of developers such as Microsoft, Broderbund, Hasbro, Vicarious Visions, and Cengage Learning. He spent time in the console industry as the Director of Game Design for Sega of America, and now lends his time freely to fan-based and small independent game productions. His most recent published project was writing the dialogue for N-Fusion’s celebrated retro RPG, Ember.
He currently works as a freelance writer and game designer, and lives with his wife and daughter in Albany, New York.
Hero-U (in production) – Writer
SpaceVenture (in production) – Writer, Lyricist
Ember (2016) – Writer
Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded (2013) – Designer, Producer, Writer, Lyricist, Actor, Casting
Fester Mudd: Curse of the Gold – Episode 1 (2013) – Design Consultant, Writer
Planet Cazmo (2012) – Design Consultant
King’s Quest III Redux: To Heir is Human (2011) – Actor
Martian Panic (2010) – Writer
Medieval Games (2009) – Writer
Insecticide (2008) – Designer, Writer
Hour of Victory (2007) – Writer
Crash Bandicoot – Crash of the Titans (2007) – Designer, Writer
King’s Quest III: To Heir Is Human (2006) – Actor
Medical, Financial, and Pharmacological training simulations (2006-2015) – Designer, Writer, Actor
D.M. Dinwiddie, Physician-In-Training (2003) – Designer, Writer
Hungry Red Planet (2002) – Designer Consultation
Sea-Doo Hydrocross (2001) – Designer, Writer
Blue’s Clues: Blue’s Alphabet Book (2001) – Designer
King’s Quest: Quest for the Crown (2001) – Actor
Terminus (2000) – Actor
Jagged Alliance 2: Unfinished Business (2000) – Writer
Jagged Alliance 2 (1999) – Writer
Sonic Adventure (1998) – Writer
Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon (1997) – Designer, Art Director, Writer, Actor
John Saul’s Blackstone Chronicles (1997) – Actor
Shannara (1995) – Writer
Phantasmagoria (1995) – Actor
Space Quest 6: Roger Wilco in the Spinal Frontier (1995) – Designer, Writer, Lyricist
Space Quest: The Collector’s Edition (1994) – Writer, Actor
Leisure Suit Larry 6 (1993) – Lyricist
Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist (1993) – Designer, Writer, Producer, Lyricist, Actor
Pepper’s Adventures in Time (1993) – Co-Designer
Hoyle Classic Card Games (1993) – Actor
Space Quest V: The Next Mutation (1993) – Writer (Documentation)
Quest for Glory III: Wages of War (1992) – Actor
King’s Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow (1992) – Actor
Laura Bow 2: The Dagger of Amon Ra (1992) – Writer, Actor
Jones in the Fast Lane: CD-ROM (1992) – Writer, Actor
The Island of Dr. Brain (1992) – Writer (Documentation)
Police Quest 3: The Kindred (1991) – Actor
EcoQuest: The Search for Cetus (1991) – Actor
Space Quest IV: Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers (1991) – Writer
Leisure Suit Larry 1: In the Land of the Lounge Lizards VGA (1991) – Writer
Jones in the Fast Lane (1991) – Writer, Actor
Mixed-Up Mother Goose (1991) – Producer, Actor
Leisure Suit Larry 5: Passionate Patti Does a Little Undercover Work (1991) – Writer
Roberta Williams’ Mixed-Up Mother Goose (1991) – Producer, Actor
King’s Quest V: Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder (1990) – Actor
Fire Hawk: Thexder – The Second Contact (1990) – Producer
Roberta Williams’ King’s Quest I: Quest … (1990) – Producer, Writer
Zeliard (1990) – Producer
The Laffer Utilities (1990) – Writer