To understand what Carlos Mencia’s professional life has been like over the last three years watch “Fishsticks,” a 2009 episode of “South Park” in which an animated version of Mencia is beaten and killed after taking credit for a joke that isn’t his.
While the episode features a cartoon Kanye West and his cronies swinging the baseball bats, it has been fellow comedians themselves who have come out in full force against the Latino funnyman and what they claim is blatant joke-stealing. True or not, the reputation has stuck, and although he’s denied the allegations, Mencia has quickly become the most hated comedian in the industry.
Currently on a stand-up tour to prepare for a TV special he will be shooting this fall, the 42-year-old Mencia, formerly of Comedy Central’s “Mind of Mencia,” spoke to me about where he is in his life and how he feels about his colleagues making him a villain in the comedy world.
Has life taken some time getting used to without your TV show?
What has been hard is thinking about why I decided to walk away in the first place. I come from a working family, bro. We don’t say no to work or money. I didn’t know if the next season would have been as good as I wanted it to be. I’d rather leave and have people say, “Hey, where’d you go?” than have people see it and say, “Ah, that last season sucked.”
Did you feel like you were at a crossroads?
I was in a place where I was just not ready to go there. You go through periods in your life where you begin to question yourself. That’s never been a part of my psyche. I took a bit of time off to look at my life. I never had that kind of time to see my situation as a human being, artist, and comedian. All of this hit me in the face. Up until “Mind of Mencia” I’d been doing comedy out of fear. Now, I’m back at that place again with no sense of doubt.
Even with the comedy world vilifying you so harshly?
I realized if somebody doesn’t want to like me they’re going to find an excuse not to like me. It’s like when you go on a date and you don’t like the way the other person looks, you’re going to find a reason not to go out with them again. I’m just not going to live in the negative anymore. As a human being, of course I’d like my peers to dig me, but it is what it is. I’m a happy person, and I probably have never been as good of a comedian as I am today.
You’ve denied allegations that you steal jokes, but do you think it happens with other comedians?
I know for a fact all comedians have people they want to be like. Eddie Murphy, all of his jokes were pretty much Richard Pryor’s. It’s where we all start as comedians. Within a few years you shed that and become your own human being. It seems to me the majority of comedians complaining about plagiarism are not successful comedians.
Intellectual-property laws don’t include copyright laws for stand-up comedians. Do you think we should go as far as making it illegal for comedians to steal ideas from one another?
I don’t know if you can do that. The problem with comedy is the same problem with music. We all interpret our own things in our own ways. What would happen if we said only Michael Bolton could do love songs because he was the first one to do it? No one would be able to sing about heartbreak ever again.
Starring: America Ferrera, Forest Whitaker, Carlos Mencia
Directed by: Rick Famuyiwa (“Brown Sugar”)
Written by: Wayne Conley (“King’s Ransom”), Malcolm Spellman (debut), Rick Famuyiwa (“Brown Sugar”)
Movies featuring racially diverse casts and themes are hard to come by these days (unless you’re rubbing elbows with the overrated brand name known as Tyler Perry). But if future projects aimed at underrepresented minorities are anything like the grating “Our Family Wedding,” studios should keep them tucked away at least until George Lopez’s dubious “Speedy Gonzalez” idea comes to fruition.
Not only are the distasteful stereotypes what make “Wedding” a chore to sit through, director and co-writer Rick Famuyiwa (“Brown Sugar”) just doesn’t have the comedic chops to deliver entertaining material for an entire feature film. While a goat hopped up on Viagra is the unfunny low point of the movie, “Wedding” sinks close to that level before and after the farm animal starts dry-humping Forest Whitaker in the bathroom.
Using the same structure as 2005’s “Guess Who” (a less than stellar remake of the Oscar winning 1967 film “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”), the film follows two families as they prepare for a big wedding celebration for their son and daughter.
Lucia Ramirez (America Ferrera) and Marcus Boyd (Lance Gross) may be in love, but that doesn’t mean their dads have to like each other. The animosity between father of the bride Miguel (Carlos Mencia) and father of the groom Marcus (Whitaker) begins when Miguel, the owner of an auto repair shop, impounds Marcus’s sports car and exchanges verbal jabs with his daughter’s future father-in-law even before he knows who he is.
The set up is a tired one. Most of the jokes play the race card without remorse and each one is less amusing than the last. When Lucia and Marcus break the news to their families about their interracial relationship, no one bothers to tell Lucia’s grandmother (Lupe Ontiveros) who falls over when she sees a black man walk into her kitchen. The racial profiling continues as Miguel calls Marcus “bro’” and Marcus retorts with “hombre.” The families bicker and clash about wedding traditions, culture, and religion while Lucia and Marcus stand idly by having claimed a nonsensical mantra to help them get through the weeks before the big day: “Our marriage, their wedding.”
Directed gracelessly by Famuyiwa, “Our Family Wedding” is an unfortunate mess of a movie that skips all the tender moments and authentic family ordeals for dull slapstick comedy and ham-fisted put-downs. If you’re looking for something as endearing as “Father of the Bride,” you’ve come to the wrong ceremony.
Most people know the name Carlos Mencia from his work as a stand-up comedian and his Comedy Central show “The Mind of Mencia.” Now, fans can enjoy his humor on the big screen as Mencia stars in his first feature film “The Heartbreak Kid” alongside Ben Stiller.
In the film, Mencia – who contrary to popular belief is Honduran not Mexican – plays Uncle Tito, a Mexican hotel employee who can find anything for anyone.
During a phone interview with me, Mencia talked about the nerve-wracking audition process, one of his worst experiences with the opposite sex and, surprisingly, politics.
How does it feel to finish the first feature film of your career with “The Heartbreak Kid?”
It’s been a blast, bro. It’s funny because doing stand-up gets one reaction from fans. People will come up to you and tell you you’re funny. Then when you’re on TV people come up to you like they’re your best friends. But when you end up in a movie, bro, that’s a whole other deal. People look at you like you’re a god. It’s kind of creepy and weird, bro.
And this is not just any movie. This is directed by the Farrelly Brothers (“There’s Something About Mary”), so you had to be excited about that.
Yeah, it’s at a different level. I was so lucky to be in a movie with the Farrelly Brothers and Ben Stiller and Jerry Stiller. The characters and the acting are unbelievable. For this to be my first, it’s almost sickening, bro. I’m not a jealous person, but I’m jealous of myself.
So, I guess this is a good way to pop your cherry?
You know, this is a great way to pop a cherry, man. This is one of those things where my first encounter was so good, every other one’s never gonna compare.
Tell me how you got involved in the film in the first place. Did you have to audition for the role?
Well, they first asked me if I was interested in the film. I was like, “Well, what is the character?” They’re were like, “Well, it’s this Mexican guy that works at a hotel.” I was like, “Eh, I don’t know. Really? That’s it?” So, then I read the script and it was really funny. Then I felt like an asshole because after I read the script I was like, “I better be in this movie!” Then they told me, “Well, you have to come read for it.” So, I went and read for it and I was like, “Man, I hope I did good.” And they were like, “It was great. Can you come in and do it one more time?” So, I read for it again. And then they said, “We really like you but we don’t know.” So, I was like, “I’ll do whatever you need.” Then I got the part. Then it turns out that they had me in mind for it the whole time.
Tell me about your character Uncle Tito and also explain to me why it’s not Tio Tito?
It would have been Tio Tito, but then I would have had to explain what tio means. Here’s how I created this character: First I gained about 20 lbs. Then I put on a wig and a porn [mou]stache. I looked like the Frito Bandito. Then I talked to my Uncle Jose, whose Mexican, for about two hours. Then I have a friend named Manuel. Manuel was the guy in the neighborhood that knew how to get anything for anybody. So if you said, “I need to buy a TV, bro” he would say, “No, don’t go to Circuit City. Listen, go to the place in the corner. Ask for Johnny.” So, I put all of that together and put a little bit of me and that’s how I came up with Uncle Tito.
I bet gaining weight for the role was fun.
Yeah, I ate doughnuts and nachos everyday. It was awesome. Someone told me, “You really don’t have to gain weight for the role.” I was like, “Yeah I do.”
So, in “The Heartbreak Kid” Ben Stiller’s character gets married to a woman he really doesn’t know and finds out she is not what he expected. Without naming names, tell me about one of the worst relationships you’ve ever been in.
Ah, dude, there was this chick that was like, “I want you to move in with me. I want us to be together. I want us to get married.” So, we got a two-bedroom apartment but she wanted me to sleep in one and her in the other. I was like, “Whoa. I thought we were together. What’s this bullshit?” She was like, “No, I don’t want my mom to think…” I was like, “You’re mom’s not here. What do you mean?” Turns out she was just using me. She was banging one of my friends. She turned out to be the biggest whore on the planet. Don’t get me wrong, that’s what I liked about her in the first place, but she could have told me she just wanted to be friends.
You’re on tour right now with your stand-up show. Is touring something you think comedians need to do to stay at the top of their game. I mean, these days some comedians just rely on the internet and word-of-mouth to stay accessible.
Here’s how you can look at it: With my show, TV is always there. Movies are like the really hot chick that I don’t think I’ll get, but I’m chasing no matter what. That’s Scarlett Johansson. That’s Jessica Biel. Then, stand-up is always going to be my booty call, bro.
Let’s talk about your stand-up. Some people would say that you push the limits with some of the things you say. Is there a line that a comedian shouldn’t cross?
Nah, it’s comedy, man. It’s intended to be funny. If you take that serious, it’s to your detriment. I don’t understand who goes to a comedy show and takes shit seriously. That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. I try not to say things just for the sake of saying them. I hope that they’re funny and they mean something. [Comedians] are savvy people. Don’t think for a second that comedians are stupid.
I read that you’re going to be doing stand-up for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. Have you decided who you are going to be backing in ’08?
It’s way too early to do that. I still have to hear what everyone is saying. I don’t care about color. I’m not going to vote for someone just because they are Latino or black. I’m also not going to vote for somebody just because they are female.
So, instead you can vote for the one that makes you laugh the most.
Um. Maybe, but I don’t think so. I really want our president to be good at their job, not funny. We already have a funny president and I don’t really think that’s working out.