Carlos Mencia has never been so uncontroversial.
For years, the comedian navigated the seas of mainstream success with his show Mind of Mencia while being thrashed by storms of criticism for allegations of stealing material within the community. It's rare for a comedian to experience soaring adoration or scathing hate, let alone both at the same time.
But this was years ago. Mencia never stopped writing and performing, but these days he's mellowed into a guy who's over the drama. This weekend he's at the Miami Improv at Homefield, Thursday to Sunday.
Carlos spoke with New Times about his evolution, losing the weight, and handling the hate.
I'll begin with a traditional Miami greeting: Yo bro, what's good?
Heh. Everything, man. Everything is good with me, bro. After Mind of Mencia and all that, I took the time to just find myself on stage. You go through those waves of success and then you realize you have to evolve. You either remain stagnant or you move on. So I decided to go back to the comedy clubs and find myself in the roots of that.
You come to Miami often.
For me it's different. It's like the one place I fit in. I fit in as a Latino, and American, because I speak Spanish, I know Central and South America. It's just a different vibe, for me it's a perfect place.
So you're building material for a new special?
I definitely already have the material, now I just have to figure out which company will record the special. Within the next few months.
So the people coming to the Miami Improv this weekend will catch some of that material?
Eighty to 90 percent, depending on how much I write and anything happening. At the top of my game I think I wrote an hour of material in about 10 days.
That's the best I've ever done. But that was right after September 11 and there was so much to talk about. So I've been known to write 20 minutes in a weekend, and then three minutes here and there, and then in a month or two -- boom. It just depends on whatever's going on in my life.
It's hard when you've been successful at something to do something different. I wish Sam Kinison was still alive to see what kind of stuff he'd be doing. How his act would evolve... same for me. It took me a while and right now I'm hitting on all cylinders, working on a couple movie and TV projects. My stand-up has never been better. I'm in a great place right now.
Speaking of your evolution, you are bona fide skinny!
Ahh not anymore, haha. I just wanted to get fit and didn't want to look the way I was looking. I got to the point where I had enough to time and I got information on how to eat properly and do the right thing.
Were you worried about it affecting you comedically? Like the old stereotype of "fat equals funny"?
Fat does not equal funny, but anything that's seen as a weakness can help you. I'll give you an example: a rich kid doing material about how we grew up in the Hamptons wants to go on stage and say "people with cerebral palsy annoy me" it's not going to go over very well. But if somebody with muscular dystrophy goes on stage and says it, motherfuckers would laugh.
The more you have wrong with you that people can immediately identify, whether it's conscious or unconscious, the more you can get away with. That's why the past 60-70 years or so the breakout comics tended to be minority comics. We always had something to bitch about.
Do you have one less thing to be vulnerable about?
You just go on stage and slowly find a new way to deliver the material. The first year or two it was hard. Some of the things I would say before, all of a sudden I'm looking decent and they're like "this guy's a dick!" So you have to find a way to still be honest and edgy without it coming off as douchey.
Amen. It's cool you brought a Miami comic on tour with you.
Yeah it's funny because I met him at the [Miami Improv] one day. Someone said this guy's a comedian and I said want some time? That's why I do Thursdays and Sundays, those are the days comics are hanging out. I checked him out, and that's how Sisqo ended up doing the road with me.
As comics go, you have a controversial past. Since the dust has settled, what did you take away from the experience?
I've learned to not really care about what people think. People who have an agenda to hate are going to hate, and that's cool but I don't live in that place. I don't pay attention to it. At the end of the day you 're never going to make those people happy. It's not that they hate you, it's that they want to hate.
So that's what "haters gonna hate" means.
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I care about the people who come see me perform, who come watch my shows and movies. I live in that positive place, positive energy. It's a beautiful place to be. I don't [worry] myself with negativity; it doesn't matter. It makes no difference. I'm just worried about my performances on every level and to make sure they're the best I can put out at any given time.
It's a pattern. The more successful you become, the more criticized you are; the less successful you become, the more everybody likes you. In comedy especially. You show me a guy who's bombing on stage, I'll show you a bunch of comedians in the back laughing their asses off. You show me a guy who's on stage killing it, I'll show you a bunch of comedians in the back talking shit. Why would you pay attention to that? Why would you not want to get laughs but have the comedians thinking you're brilliant, or the opposite? People who pay to see your shows are the people to pay attention to.