Thursday, January 12, 2006
It sounds like Carlos Mencia is taking a leak during the phone interview.
“Are you taking a leak?” comes the question.
“No, I’m pouring something. But I would.”
It’s not hard to believe him. These days, Mencia is doing and saying everything he feels like doing and saying. His show on Comedy Central, “Mind of Mencia”—the highest rated new comedy show this summer—was just extended into its second season. On top of planning its next 13 episodes, he’s shooting a one-hour special for the network which will premiere around the start of second season in March. And he’s hosting a live-performance tour in over 30 markets across the country in 2006, which arrives in Salinas Friday.
Mencia admits he has trouble stopping. “I love my job,” he says. “There’s no off switch.”
And for his fans, it’s just not enough. His brother and merchandise manager Albert Mencia says they’ve been adding shows at every stop to keep up with the manic Mencia demand. That’s good news locally. When Friday’s 7pm show at Sherwood Hall sold out almost immediately, the Mencia team tacked on an encore at 11pm.
Mencia says he’s popular because he’s honest. “When I’m on stage, I say the truth,” he says. “The truth makes people laugh.”
The truth has quite a range. One minute he’s ripping people for feeling sorry about Roy (of Sigfried and Roy) getting wounded by his tiger. (“That’s like me complaining about getting raped after getting drunk and inviting my fag friends over.”) The next he’s ripping on Mexicans who say they are unhappy in border towns. (“F**kin’ jump the border, bitch, it’s not electric.”)
Many would prefer that Mencia stick to ripping his own family and himself. Mencia would prefer they just stick it. He starts one stand-up session by saying, “First f**king rule. You’ll love about 90 percent of my act. Then, inevitably, there’ll be one f**kin’ joke where everybody’s laughing but you…At that moment, just remember: I am an immigrant. I really believe in freedom of speech…I grew up on welfare and government cheese…and I don’t give a f**k.”
The Weekly found the 38-year-old Mencia in his Encino, Calif. home, preparing to jet to Birmingham, Ala. for a handful of sold-out shows.
Weekly: There’s two kinds of people in this world—people that get offended by your searing style of comedy, and those that think it is funnier than hell. Describe those two people for me.
Mencia: People that get offended by my comedy, that don’t get my stuff, are people that don’t live in the real world, people that live in their little cul de sac where nothing bad happens and nobody gets divorced and nobody cheats and everybody gets their raises when they’re supposed to and there’s no blacks. People that don’t get offended, those are people that live in the majority of America. They’re the people that understand.
As an example, there are people that drive by those big wooden carvings that you guys have with people pickin’ fruits. Some people go, “Man, why would they do that?” Some go, “Man, that’s racist.” Some people go, “That’s kinda cool, this is where they pick fruits.” I see them and I go, “I don’t mind that they’re here, but they’re all f**kin’ smiling. They’re f**kin’ happy.” I wanna see those people out in the fields. I never see that guy out in the fields. I’ve been out in the fields. You’re not f**kin’ happy when you’re out in the fields. You’re more like “Holy s**t, when am I gonna get the f**k outta this job?” The people that can see that—“Holy s**t! They’re happy?”—those are my fans.
Weekly: You’ve been called a lot of things—smart, simple-minded, a serial stereotyper. Help me sort through the labels.
Mencia: Smart…I would say not really. I don’t talk about Nietzsche and Kerouac; I don’t philosophize like Plato and Aristotle. What I really do is talk about current events and just put my spin on ‘em. Simple-minded? Probably so. Serial stereotyper? Yes, but I do use them as a template and I don’t ignore the evidence. When over 90 percent of serial killers are white between the ages of 35 and 50, that’s not a stereotype. But, yeah, of course I stereotype. What is stereotyping? It’s saying this: If you are black and in this country and you did not just come from Africa, chances are you descended from slaves. Chances are that you have gone through this type of upbringing. Chances are you’re not the f**kin’ Huxtables. I am going to apply that in talking to you, because I want you to know that I know about you. The s**tty part about stereotyping is people want you to stereotype, just in the way they think is appropriate. All the good s**t. All black men have big d**ks. That’s a good stereotype. You can say that. That’s true. Black people aren’t good at school—hey, what the f**k are you saying? Is it true Latin men are good lovers? Yeah. Is it true that you jump the border? Dat’s buuulsheeet.
Weekly: So the Carlos Mencia saga started out in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, then shifted to East LA when you were seven months old. You reference your crappy life in the slums frequently: “projects and government cheese.” What was that like and how relevant were those early experiences to your becoming one of the hottest comedians out there?
Mencia: Very. I was treated like an insider and an outsider at the same time. To all the Mexican Mexicans, I was a Mexican. To all the Chicanos, I wasn’t Chicano. I was born in Honduras. Well then f**k it. I’m not Mexican. “Where’s your mom from?” “Mexico.” “Then you’re a Mexican.” What the f**k am I? Your mom’s a Mexican, you’re Mexican—but you’re not a real Mexican and you’re not a Chicano. But as soon as we left the ’hood, as soon as we were somewhere else, at Disneyland, it was “Hey Homes, f**kin’ white people, they’re not like us.” What the f**k is this “us” s**t? Yesterday I wasn’t part of the crew. Now I’m part of the crew? What happened? I was like, “Holy s**t!”
And with Americans, I was an American, but I wasn’t an American. I was born in another country. It allowed me to do one thing that people hate: It allowed me to understand just because you’re black, white, Asian, Hispanic, this or that, it doesn’t mean you’re not an American. But it doesn’t take away the fact that you’re that other thing also. And when you look at my comedy, it’s not exclusionary, it’s inclusive. Most of the e-mails that I get aren’t “F**k you, you’re an asshole,” it’s more like “Hey dude, how come your show sucks? You haven’t made fun of people from Ecuador.” What have you done besides your name is equator? What can I make fun of? Do something.
Weekly: Your parents gave you, the 17th of 18 kids, to your aunt and uncle to raise. What happens if you stay in Honduras?
Mencia: I would come over here. I’m a fighter, doo. I want more, I am an American—I mean that as a state of mind. We come from a specific state of mind. One point in time, our ancestors were somewhere else. They or we wanted more and knew this was the one place to get it.
Weekly: You make no secret of your appreciation of the United States, but it is a critical appreciation. Let’s approach that two ways. How and why is this country better than most people give it credit for? How is it more f**ked up than we’re willing to acknowledge?
Mencia: It’s better because we have all of this. And we come together, so to speak, when the chips are down. It’s worse because we’re repressed. Repression leads to explosions.
In Italy the girls have sex at 19. Here it’s 16. On Italian television they show t*ts and a*s. We freak the f**k out over the nipple no one could see unless you were the two percent of the population that had really high-def equipment. Those people could maybe see a tit.
We’re bad at accepting our humanity. We should strive for perfection, but we can accept our frailties.
Weekly: During your San Jose-filmed 2005 stand-up special Carlos Mencia: Not for the Easily Offended, you say, “We ain’t real about s**t,” and ask: “Why don’t we have the balls to be ourselves? We’re like Schmeagle,” fake and nice in one place but not in another? Why do you think more people aren’t real?
Mencia: Look at my show—it’s huge amongst white people. Huge. I’m going to Birmingham and we’re sellin’ out. Because white people love racial humor. They want to laugh at it all. But we don’t feel comfortable laughin’ with other people. And that’s just bulls**t. That’s what we’re bad at.
I think that the majority of people are real, they’re just real at home. Everybody’s real at home. So here’s where my comedy comes from, so everybody can know: When I’m with my family and friends, I say things that might be a little on the edge, or crazy. But I’ll say it like you will, because your family and friends know you and love you and they know where it comes from. I say that s**t around Americans because I’m an American and Americans are my friends, family and loved ones. And I believe that they understand where I’m coming from. That’s why I say what I say, not because I want people to get crazy and think I’m not on your side. It’s because I want you to know, “No, Dick, you’re my family, I’m saying this, and I hope you understand this is where I’m coming from, because I love you.”
Weekly: You believe in scathingly addressing current events: immigration, eroding school standards, parcel security on airplanes, media control. How is comedy a great vehicle to get at the truth you feel people miss?
Mencia: The one thing that comedy is beautiful at is lowering your guard. When people are laughing, they’re not defensive. When people are not defensive, it allows them to absorb information that normally they would immediately say, “Aw, that’s bulls**t.” But they’re laughing and it just goes in. I’m not comparing myself to them, but take Aristotle, Plato, Socrates. These guys mirrored society back in their day. They talked about what society was, what society was doin’ and where society could be. Well, people like Richard Pryor, Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Chris Rock, they do that today. The philosophers of yesteryear have become comedians.
Weekly: You and Bill O’Reilly sit down for some tea. How’s that go?
Mencia: I don’t know, because I don’t know how much of his show is real and how much is entertainment. But I would get along with him if he would acknowledge how much of it is entertainment. As long as I said, “Dude, you can’t take all that s**t seriously. You’re an entertainer.” If he were to say, “Yeah, there’s that,” I’d say, “Cool, me too.”
Weekly: You went into amateur night at the Improv in LA just one credit shy of graduating from Cal State LA in electronic engineering. What happened on that stage that changed everything, ultimately leading to Showtime, the DVDs, the re-up of your show on Comedy Central?
Mencia: What happened at that moment is I found my calling. Look, man, if God talks, I heard him. That’s it. I had an epiphany. A moment of clarity. The perfection. I had it. That was it. I’m being completely serious. When I got off stage, I knew: You need to stop going to school and commit yourself to this because this is what you were put on this earth to do.
Weekly: One of your trademarks is the Dee Dee Dee Award—a kind of Darwin award for idiots with an edge. Can I get you to hand out a Dee Dee Dee Award real quick?
Mencia: You know who does get it in your city: the guy who painted the smiley faces on all those f**kin’ wooden pieces. The least the guy coulda done is paint one with a real grin of “F**k, it’s a hundred degrees—what are we doing pickin’ this s**t?!”
Weekly: Speed Round: Greatest comedic influence, who was it? Time to grab one thing from your burning home, what is it? Best and worst things about making it big in comedy, what are they?
Mencia: Biggest comedic influence: My father. From my house: My wife so we can make kids. (We have none because I’m taking care of too many f**king people as it is right now.) The best thing is the realization of your accomplishment: the end of the road, so to speak. The worst: people not understanding and forgetting you’re a comedian. Look man, I’m telling jokes. In the end I try to make people laugh and make people happy. In the end, even if I don’t succeed, that is a noble, beautiful thing. That’s what I hate about success—it gets more and more away from comedy.
Weekly: Why do you hate stupid people, Carlos?
Mencia: Because they’re not really stupid. Because they choose being stupid. How can you f**king choose to be stupid? Of all the things you can choose to be in the world, how can you choose to be f**king stupid? You can be that f**king guy that works at McDonalds but has all the f**king answers. It doesn’t matter what you do for a living but don’t be f**king stupid.
Everything about our existence as a civilization is about not being stupid. We purposely say, “You have to get an education so that you won’t be f**king stupid. You have to learn to read so you won’t be f**king stupid, you have to learn math so you won’t be f**king stupid. We live in a world where you can get the Internet and find out any f**king thing you could want, and yet there are still stupid people. I hate them because they’re lazy and they’re the first to bitch and complain about not having s**t that they want. How come rich people bla bla bla? Because they’re not f**king stupid.
And because in reality, I want those people to change, I want those people to come to my show and say “I’m not gonna be stupid. I’m gonna get an education.” That’s the beauty of having a show that so many kids watch: that you influence them in that way.
Weekly: Your “Rules of Comedy” are 1. Don’t get offended easily; 2. Don’t try to heckle me; 3. Don’t tire easily; and 4. Keep up with what’s going on in the world. Why number two?
Mencia: Because there are people who actually think they can win. It’s like, dude, it’s not gonna happen. I’m warning ‘em. Not only do I have a microphone, but I’ve been thinking about this s**t forever. I have facts on my side.
The best was this one guy at the Comedy Store who said, “If you do one more joke about white people, I’ll come up there and kick your ass.” “Why’re you pissed off? You think I’m putting you down, is that what it is? Let’s go to the beginning of my act, I said this, is this true?” “Yes.” “The reason I said this, is this true?” “Yes.” “Are you gonna come up here and kick my ass because I’m telling the truth about America that you don’t like because you’re white?” He said, “I sincerely apologize. I wasn’t listening to what you’re saying because I was pissed off. I was mistaken.”