Comedian Carlos Mencia is bringing his comedy to Delaware on Friday, Aug. 24 when his tour stops in Dover at Dover Downs Hotel and Casino. The 2012 version of Mencia is more introspective and this tour gives audiences the opportunity to learn more about Mencia's life and upbringing. Here, he discusses how his weight loss changed his act and explains that he just wants to make people laugh.
Comedian Carlos Mencia, famous for his no-holds-barred brand of comedy that often delves into issues of character and race. Mencia is currently on tour, with a stop in Dover at Dover Downs scheduled for Friday, Aug. 24. This is a new version of Mencia, though. He’s still raising eyebrows but his comedy focuses more on the changes in his life, from growing up poor in Honduras to losing weight and having a family. Here, he chats about political correctness, the intent of words and jokes and his creative process.
Q In previous tours, your comedy has highlighted politics and often involved issues of race and social class. What are you talking about this time around?
A Mostly a lot of get-to-know-me type stuff, I think. A lot of people out there don’t really know me and I’m talking a lot about my growing up and also stuff that’s happening in the news that’s relevant to the day. I don’t really have an agenda when I do live shows. But, from my perspective I would say my agenda is that I want to make people laugh and have the most amazing time they can possibly have.
Q You mentioned that this tour allows audiences to learn more about you. How has the progression of your career and your personal life influenced what you talk about on stage right now?
It influences it in the since that what happened was I lost a lot of weight. And, when you lose a lot of weight as a comedian and you physically change as much as I have, you really have to change the way you deliver your comedy because now you are in a different place when you step onstage. Because when you’re a chubby guy, you can talk about it. The more flaws you have as a human being, the easier it is to do comedy.
Q Why is that?
Because if you’re fat, you can do fat jokes about yourself. If you’re ugly, you can say, ‘this is how ugly I am’ or if you have one eye, you can say, ‘this is what’s going on with my eye’ and if you have one leg, why you can’t walk. Whatever abnormality you have that’s physical, you can immediately go to it because people go ‘oh wow, why does he have one arm or why is he wearing an eyepatch.’
Q So, is it harder to do comedy now that you’re thinner?
It was harder because I had to find a new way to deliver my material. But, in the process I discovered a funner and funnier way to deliver material for me.
Q Political correctness seems to reign in the public domain right now. How do you work within that? Or, do you completely ignore it?
I ignore it completely because if political correctness ruled my world, I would be a miserable human being. I laugh at my pain and that’s one of the biggest reasons I do stand up. I take those harsh things that happened to me in my life and I make them funny. And, I think that political correctness takes that way from it.
Q So, do you think people just take themselves too seriously?
Way too seriously. I mean, what kind of time do you have and what kind of life do you lead that you have even a moment to be worried about a joke. Like people in starving nations and people in other counties are worried about when their electricity is going to come back on, when can I get electricity, where can I find water, where can I get my next meal. So, if you have time to worry about a joke, you must have an amazing life. But, it also doesn’t take intent into account.
Q What do you mean?
OK. When a racist guy says, ‘You better run, nigger,” it’s way different intent than when two black guys walk up to each other and say, “What up, nig?” The words may be [the same] but it’s completely different intent. And, that’s the problem. Political correctness takes away intent. I’m a comedian. I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings. As a matter of fact, I care so much about people being happy, and any comedian will tell you if there is a room filled with people that are laughing—I mean, crying-laughing—and, there is one person not laughing, just one, we’ll notice that one person.
Q Do you start to hone in on that person, wondering what you’re doing wrong or why they’re not getting it?
Of course! We go crazy. ‘Why is that person not laughing? Why is everybody else laughing? Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. That’s how badly we want to make everybody laugh.
Q So, let’s go back to intent. I understand what you’re saying. But, some words do have such a negative connotation. How do you know it’s going to be OK to say them?
Not when they come from a comedian! That’s my job as a comedian, to make them understand this is not the place. Comedy is not the place for political correctness. Again, intent. There’s a big difference. That’s my point. OK. Let’s assume words are like a gun. They can kill the wrong guy or they can defend someone from raping your daughter and kill the right guy. So, are guns bad?
Q Well, that would go back to the question, do people kill people or do guns kill people?
Exactly. I don’t want to be lumped in. If I do a gay joke, I’m doing a joke. I don’t want to be lumped in with a guy who goes out and gay bashes. It’s not the same thing.
Q So, it should make people think?
No! It should make people laugh! But, I get it. It’s one of the biggest problems in comedy today. People are looking to comedy like that’s our opinion or that’s our voice or that’s our words. You know, my friend gave me a clown tie the other day, like a three-foot clown tie before I went on stage. Then, I told a joke and people took it seriously. And, I went off-stage and I got the clown tie and I put it on and I told them, ‘whenever I tell a joke and you [boo], I’m going to point to the clown tie to remind you that I’m a court jester, a glorified clown and that everything I do is intended to be funny. When clowns fall on the floor—let’s take that as an example—a clown pretends to slip, falls, hits his head on the floor, sits up, grabs his head, starts making really weird noises pretending he’s really hurt, everybody is laughing. He’s hurt. Why are they laughing? He just hurt himself. Or, he’s not really hurt. He’s a clown. We’re just telling jokes. We’re clowns. Stop taking us so seriously. I think people watch comedians and say, ‘Wow. Can you believe what he just said’ as if we’re serious. But, then, they watch CNN and retweet ‘Oh how funny was this?’ It’s like, you’re taking comedians seriously but watching the news and laughing?
Q. OK. Let’s talk about the creative process. How do you write a joke? Do they start as an observation or do things just strike you as naturally funny?
Both. In every way. You don’t know where that inspiration is going to come from. That’s why being a comedian is very difficult.
Q Who do you test your jokes out on? Does your family act as guinea pigs for that?
No. God, if after 25-years of doing comedy, if I don’t know what’s funny. When you first start doing stand-up as a comedian, you begin to create this [version of a ] computer program. And, what ends up happening is that after five-years, at some point, this program is finished. And, when that happens, you just put things in that program and it filters it out and turns it into a joke.
Q Do you ever look back and worry that you’ve gone too far?
I would only say I’ve gone to far as a human being. OK. Let’s say that I meet a woman that I like and it gets to the point where I want to kiss her. Let’s assume I’m the worst kisser of all time, but, I try really hard. I’m not going to regret trying to make her feel good. I’m just going to be sad that I’m not good at it. I, literally, am trying to bring pleasure and happiness to the world. I don’t apologize for that. I’m not trying to put anybody down. I’m not trying to demean anybody or hurt anybody’s feelings. I really just want to make everybody laugh.
Now, that being said, the things I can find funny are that I grew up poor with government cheese and some of the worst of circumstances. So, I’ve had to make child abuse, sexual abuse, poverty and at times, starvation—At times, I had to make all those things funny for me. When I go on stage and talk about those things for me, people laugh because it’s almost like I’m making fun of myself and people go, ‘Oh, it’s ok.’ Like when I talk about growing up in Honduras and how my mom used to beat the living crap out of me. People will laugh at that. But, as soon as I start talking about something that’s not about me, that’s where I have to try to use all my years of stand-up to make it funny and palatable and give it the right perspective.
And, you know, I’m not the angry, young comic that I used to be so even when I do that stuff now, it’s from a different perspective. I personally haven’t gotten a lot of ‘he’s offensive’ or ‘you went to far’ in a really long time.
Q Lastly, I’m not going to ask you about the accusations that fellow comedian Joe Rogan hurls at you about originality or about the “South Park” episode on the same topic. However, there is an ongoing discussion in some circles about plagiarism and the collective consciousness of experiences. Do you think originality is still possible?
I don’t believe so. I don’t believe there that there’s any topic that hasn’t been talked about before. There’s only variations on themes. There’s nothing. You want to talk about relationships? Done. Parent-teacher stuff? Done. Your friends? Done. Everything has already been out there. And, you’ll be lucky if somebody hasn’t done something that’s deemed as a classic on that.