Carlos Mencia Talks Sitcoms, Racist Jokes, and Why America Rules
Read part one of Cultist's interview with Carlos Mencia. Last Friday, we asked him about replacing Dave Chappelle, illegal immigrants, and whether he's a joke thief.
With Mind of Mencia now a four-line note in the bloated history of TV comedy, our boy Carlos is plotting his next career move. Right now, he's touring across the U.S.A. with a suitcase full of new material for an as-yet-unnamed standup special. And tonight, he lands at the Miami Improv.
Then what? Disney movie? Family sitcom? A gay son? Mencia answers Cultist's questions after the jump.
New Times: You're working on a network sitcom. How are you gonna twist that format to fit your brand of comedy?
Carlos Mencia: The one simple thing about me is that I have a point of view. And any sitcom that's ever been successful with a standup comedian that's the one thing they all have and share in common. From that perspective, it's simple. If I were to walk into a network and say, "OK, guys. Imagine the Carlos Mencia that you know. He has a teenage kid who wants to come out of the closet." I don't actually have to pitch my character anymore. People just automatically go, "Oh, my god! Carlos Mencia with a gay son! That shit is funny!"
|Mind of Mencia|
When comics go the sitcom route and start starring in family movies, they sometimes tone down their standup act. Have you ever felt the need to cut down on the raw stuff?
You know what? If you already know that I do sitcoms, if you already saw me in movies, if I do an Are We There Yet? Disney movie, that's awesome. I'll do it. But it'll only liberate me more to say, "By the way, my standup: it ain't written by Disney! So don't bring your kids!" If I do a Disney movie that makes $100 million and all of a sudden kids wanna see me perform, I will literally name the tour "Don't Bring Your Children" or "Leave the Kiddies at Home" or "Put the Children to Bed, It's Carlos Time!"
Look, the one thing that I'll always have is standup and my ability to say whatever the fuck I want when I'm on stage. I can't do that in movies. I can't do that on television. I can't do that when I'm doing appearances. I can't do that when I go on news networks. I can't do that when I appear on other people's programs. But I can do that when I'm on stage. That freedom will always be there for me.
I was watching a standup special recently and I thought, "Comedians can say almost anything they want these days. They can mercilessly call bullshit on politicians and the Pope. They can go on dangerous riffs and use words no one could ever use at the office." Is a comedian's role to voice the things most people are too afraid to say?
The past 40 years comedians have taken over the role of philosophers from a socio-political point of view. What has been more powerful than when Richard Pryor came out with a special and said, "I went to Africa and saw a lot of black people. I didn't see no niggers." Or Chris Rock saying, "I love black people. I hate niggers." Or any one of a thousand bits that Carlin or Kinison did.
We are able to talk about things that nobody else is able to because of political correctness. But I think that we as comedians are beginning to suffer for it. People are beginning to give relevance to our words and that's dangerous.
|Mind of Mencia|
|Blue States, Red States|
So when comedy's given too much importance ...
It's not good because then it becomes unfunny. And as soon as it becomes unfunny, it becomes "relevant." And it's not supposed to be "relevant," it's supposed to be funny. Relevance can come after. But you have comedians now choosing sides. You have Dennis Miller on the Right, you have guys like Bill Maher on the Left, and they've chosen to pick on one side. To each their own, but I just don't adhere to it. I want the ability to make fun of Barack Obama just as much as I wanted to make fun of Bush.
As truth-tellers, is it possible for a comedian to go too far? Is there just some shit you should never say?
Not if it's funny. I'm serious. That's the number one rule: If it gets a laugh, it's fine. But if it's a statement with no laugh to it, then get it the fuck out of your act. You are not a statement-giver. Tell the joke.
Have you ever gone over the edge and told a joke that just quieted the crowd?
Yeah, of course. Normally with me, though, I predict that it's going to happen and it becomes part of the joke. You know what I'm saying? I make a statement and the audience will be like, "Oooohhh." Then I'll say, "Oh really? So you're telling me ..." and there's the punchline.
|Mind of Mencia|
Why do you think people have that reaction to certain jokes? Why is it too much for them and they feel uncomfortable laughing?
It's because of racism. Not now, but back in the day, racists used, "Let me tell you a joke" to convey their bullshit ideology and hatred. Racists used to tell jokes, like, "What's the difference between a bucket of shit and a black man? The bucket! Huhuhuhuh!" That's not a fucking joke. That's some demeaning, fucked-up shit. And a lot of people back in the day did those jokes. And the fact that I'm calling them jokes is my point. They weren't jokes. They were an excuse to say some vile shit.
Now I can't help how other people think and feel about certain subjects. But I'm gonna show everybody that we're just having fun. Right now I'm doing this joke in my act about how we sometimes take shit too seriously and we need to relax and be able laugh. I say to the audience, "Look, black jokes today are different than they were two years ago. If I told a black joke two years ago, there was an asterisk and it was, 'You're black and you can't accomplish certain things that people of other races can. That's a fact.' But now there's a president who's black and he's shown the rest of us minorities, 'Hey, you can do it, too.' It's different today."
|Mind of Mencia|
Are there other ways to quiet a crowd? Could it be that you hit on something that's a little too harsh and real, and the audience isn't ready for it?
That happens. But the difference for me is that I respect my audience. I'll push them a little bit. But I'm not gonna go up there, make a statement, them not laugh, and then me throw it on them, like, "You guys just aren't ready for this." I blame myself. I say, "Hey, it's either not funny or you're not good enough to make it funny."
On September 19, 2001, I recorded an album called America Rules. All that material was written after September 11. It's an hour's worth of material that was written in a period of seven days. Now when you listen to the album, it is so fucking raw. But everybody's laughing and this is a week after we got attacked and we knew who they were and there were volatile feelings. I was able to take that energy and turn it into something funny and I think that's what we're supposed to do. If you're not able to do it, I don't think that's the audience's fault.
Carlos Mencia. Monday, September 6. Miami Improv, 3390 Mary St., Coconut Grove. There will be two sets, one at 7 p.m. and the other at 9. Tickets cost $35, plus the Improv's usual two-drink minimum. Visit miamiimprov.com.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Miami, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.