Howie Mandel is not being held captive. He's having to go on the record about this because several TikToks have gone viral recently, sharing conspiracies that one of his TikToks is a cry for help.
"I'm fine," the comedian emphasized over a phone call with BuzzFeed News. He is, however, confused as to why he has to reassure everyone of his safety.
On July 3, Mandel posted the following video with the hashtags #craft, #DIY, and #shoes. He said not many people viewed it at first, but it's now gone viral...probably because people thought he was being held captive.
Anyway, this is the TikTok in question:
In it, Mandel cuts a paper grocery bag and labels it "shoe stuff" fit for "laces, or some stuff for [his] shoes."
Mandel later told BuzzFeed News he was simply satirizing people who were "making banana bread and tie-dying" and finding other hobbies during quarantine. This was his jokey craft.
Unfortunately, the joke went over tons of young TikTokers' heads. They were puzzled by his "shoe stuff" video tutorial, which soon grew to genuine concern over his wellness.
"What does that mean? We need to help him," said YouTuber and now-famous TikToker Emmy Hartman. Her video has been viewed more than 3.2 million times.
Others started posting their confused reaction videos to Mandel and wrote in various captions and video labels that he needed "help." The hashtag #SaveHowieMandel has 9.8 million views.
According to one of the most viral conspiracy videos, user @baldiyadi claims his video is "full of secret messages." For one, she said, Mandel is wearing a lifeguard hoodie that reads "Santa Monica," which she believes to be a signal of his location. Next, she noted, Mandel points to the letters "SOS in a triangle" on his "shoe stuff" label.
She also makes claims that Mandel's S's are actually 5's and that dialing "55" tells police that "there is an intruder in the house." While dialing 55 in the United Kingdom can signal that there is an emergency if you're unable to speak over the phone, no verified resource like this exists in the United States.
Regardless, all of this has caused an absolute firestorm of conspiracies and fear on the app.
"There’s no way he just made a tiktok abt making a shoe stuff bag without it meaning something," one commenter wrote. "That's sus," another added.
Mandel said he had no idea millions of users were worried for his safety until his children and YouTuber David Dobrik, a personal friend of his, called to tell him.
"I was laughing hysterically at all the signs," he said. "Someone said, 'Do I want to comment on it?' And I said what? There is nothing [to comment on]."
But the conspiracies only grew, which prompted Mandel to post a TikTok on Monday saying that he is "okay." Unfortunately, his strange movements in the video didn't assure anyone.
"Who else didnt believe the rumors until now," one commenter wrote.
"Someone called me and said, 'they’re finding signs in your "I’m fine" video,'" said Mandel.
(BuzzFeed News asked why he was adding these motions to his words. Mandel insisted he wasn't "adding anything" and that it's all making him "self-conscious" now. BuzzFeed News apologized.)
"If I was held captive — and I’ve never been held captive before — I would imagine they would not allow me on TikTok," he added.
On a more serious note, Mandel said, he is touched that people are seemingly looking out for him, even if it's unneeded.
"If anybody was really concerned ... emotionally, that’s wonderful that people are that concerned," he said. "In these times, that warms my heart, that people care about other people. I love that they’re concerned.
"But on the other side, I didn’t really understand. … I’m just a comedian and a father and someone who’s bored and doing silly things online. To know that someone is genuinely concerned, my heart goes out to you, and I thank you for your concern but I—"
"You're fine," BuzzFeed News interjected.
"I'm fine," reiterated Mandel.
So please rest assured: Howie Mandel is safe.