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|Controlling the Beast: Carlos Mencia, at the Adler Theatre November 10|
|News/Features - Comedy|
|Written by Mike Schulz|
|Wednesday, 07 November 2007 10:25|
"The fact that people actually get offended at a joke is unbelievable to me," says Carlos Mencia, host of Comedy Central's sketch-comedy series Mind of Mencia. "Especially one coming from a comedian. Our intent is to make people laugh, and even if we miss, what a noble thing to do - to try to put a smile on somebody's face. And to take that and turn it into something bad? That's just ridiculous.
"Plus, you know, if you have the luxury of being able to be offended at a joke," he continues, "it's probably because your kids are fine, their educations are fine, you're getting fed, you're getting housed ... you know what I mean? Maybe you need to, like, lose your job, because then you wouldn't be bitching. It'd be, like, ‘Hey, did you hear about that joke?' ‘No, because I'm trying to find a fuckin' job, to feed my family. I don't care what he's saying.'"
As Mencia will attest, though, a great many people do care, and not just those prone to offense. The 40-year-old comedian - who brings his stand-up tour to the Adler Theatre on November 10 - has had quite a prosperous 2007: His Comedy Central program (the network's second-highest-rated series behind South Park) was renewed for a fourth season, with its third newly available on DVD; he had his first major supporting role in a Hollywood comedy, opposite Ben Stiller in The Heartbreak Kid; and, on September 8, Mencia served as the host for the 2007 Creative Arts Emmy Awards. "I couldn't believe it," he says during a recent phone interview. "That was awesome, man. I had a good, fun time, you know?"
In addition to being a milestone for the comedian, the event was a milestone for the Emmys: In its 59-year history, the Honduran Mencia is the first Latino solo host for either the Creative Arts or Prime-time Emmy Awards. But Mencia believes it's dangerous to think of himself as any sort of trailblazer. "You start paying attention to that kind of stuff," he says, "and then you begin to believe the hype, and then all of a sudden, you know, you become something that you're not. All of a sudden you become arrogant, and you begin to believe that you deserve all the shit that you get. You don't. Nobody does."
One thing that Mencia has consistently gotten, though, is criticism. Known for polarizing, epithet-laden routines on class, society, and particularly race, the comedian is frequently taken to task by members of the media - a much-publicized 2006 Maxim article listed him as the 12th-worst comedian of all-time - and as he'll readily admit, he's a wildly popular target for bloggers; just see what pops up when you type "hate" and "Carlos Mencia" into the same Google search.
Yet for a man so routinely dissed, Mencia says he isn't affected by such criticisms. "The truth is that for a lot of people, the only voice they ever have is the voice of negativity," he says. "The only time that they ever get heard is when they say, ‘You're an asshole, that guy sucks, this guy's this, that person's that, I hate this, I hate that ... .' Those are their 15 minutes of fame. ‘I wrote a letter to ABC and they sent me something back!' It's just like, ‘Awww ... you're somebody special ... ! You got an automated e-mail return and you're somebody ... !' Get the fuck outta here ... ."
Not that Mencia won't admit to occasionally crossing the lines of propriety, particularly during his early days on the stand-up circuit. "We all do that," he says, "especially when you're taming ... when you're beginning to try to control the beast, you know what I mean?"
Describing the genesis of his comedic style, Mencia says, "When you first discover this ability, so to speak, to be funny, it's kind of like Spider-Man - you start using it for wrestling and shit like that, you know? I realized I didn't have to tell joke jokes. I didn't have to say ‘Take my wife, please.' I could literally tell a story and give it a very comedic spin, or give it my point of view, and you start going, ‘I'm gonna make fun of everybody.' And then you sometimes cross the line."
He continues: "Like a heckler, for example. You know, before - even though the heckler deserved it for opening their mouth and saying whatever they said - there were times when I would take it so far that the audience would be like, ‘God, you need to leave him alone already.' I'd get to that point in the conversation where I realized that that guy was going to get really angry if I said one more thing, you know? And I crossed that line.
"Now, you know, I know that line," he says. "Right before I'm about to get to that line I know how to dive out of it and go, ‘Oh, c'mon, I'm only kidding! You know I love you, right? You know I love you.'
"When you're young, there's something kinda cool about that - ‘I fuckin' pissed off some guy ... !' But after you've been doing it long enough, you go, ‘You know, I'm not here to piss people off, I'm here to make people laugh.' There has to be something cool, kind, and noble in a joke, or else it's not a joke - it's your putting somebody down, and hoping that evil people laugh, you know what I mean?"
Yet Mencia acquiesces that criticism will likely continue, and he's determined to continue taking that criticism in stride.
"When I was a kid - well, younger - I used to work at Farmer's Insurance," Mencia says, "at an in-plant printing department. I came in there and my production was unbelievable, and I immediately got a promotion and became foreman, and then a-a-all my friends were no longer my friends anymore. All of a sudden you're the dick. And that's all that's going on here, and you've just got to put that in perspective. You've got to understand that when success comes, you're gonna get criticized like that. That's part of the game, man.
"Because you can get lost," he continues. "You can literally get lost. Like, you read the Maxim thing and you go, ‘Well, who are the other people? What are they trying to say?' You know what I mean? You can't live like that, man.
"Besides, you know, if no one was talkin' about me? I probably wouldn't be making the kind of money I'm making."
Carlos Mencia performs at the Adler Theatre at 7 p.m. on November 10, and tickets are available by calling (563) 326-8555 or visiting (http://www.adlertheatre.com).
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