McGinnis: Comedian Carlos Mencia to perform at ConnxtionsWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Comedian Carlos Mencia doesn’t have a lot of specific memories of the last time he played in Toledo, where he will appear at Connxtions Comedy Club on June 3 and 4. When you’ve been on the road for more than two decades, places, gigs and shows tend to blend together.
“I’ve been touring for a long time. I mean, I’ve been playing for going on 24 years. It’s been a while, brother,” Mencia said in an interview with Toledo Free Press Star. Then he started singing a Johnny Cash song he feels a special kinship to: “I’ve Been Everywhere.”
“When he sings that song, and he says all those cities, I’ve been to all those cities,” he said with a laugh.
But for all the stops the famous comic has made, one specific performance will always remain firm in his memory. He had been studying at California State University in Los Angeles when one night he decided to perform at an open mic night at the famous Laugh Factory.
“I remember it exactly. I remember the fact that, you know, my entire life, my parents were very strict about not saying stupid things in front of other people. My mother was always catching me, saying, ‘Hey, you better not say that here, and you better not say it now,’” Mencia said.
“I said in this one show what I had been thinking. And everybody laughed. And I realized, Oh my God, this is the place where I can say the things that I’ve been thinking my whole life.”
From there, Mencia said, he knew that he was onto something. “I’m one of those people that doesn’t believe in ‘try.’ I believe that, if you have the talent to do it, you gotta do it. It’s like watching an athlete. The difference between the greatest athletes and the guys that are really good is in between their head. It’s not physical. As soon as I got laughs onstage, I knew I could do this. And at that point, it’s all up to me.”
It was that competitive nature that drove him in his early years, though looking back now, Mencia noted how as a result, his early material was tinged with a lot of anger.
“It’s probably why the earlier 22 years of my career were very aggressive when I was onstage. Because I didn’t want to fail. And I knew I had to work hard, and I knew I had to do whatever it took. It’s funny how, as a comedian, I’ve changed. It seems when I’m onstage, I’m not as aggressive anymore. And it seems to be funnier than it used to. It’s just a different perspective.”
It took more than a decade of toil on the road and in clubs before Mencia got his biggest break with the Comedy Central show “Mind of Mencia.” He said that, generally, he had creative control over the show’s content but his network always had a hand in reshaping and filtering what was presented.
“Most of the time, because of the type of show that I did, and the material that we were talking about, and the edginess of it, yeah, they were always, ‘Well, don’t say it like that, say it like this. Don’t do it like that, do it like this.’ Massaging. It was annoying. But it’s the process, that’s all it is.”
In addition to the pressures from the network, there was a different kind of pressure from fans who channeled their aggression toward Mencia after the departure of Dave Chappelle, as “Mind” was seen as a replacement for Chappelle’s much-loved sketch comedy.
“I didn’t feel any of that pressure until I started getting the emails, like, ‘Who is this f***** a****** who replaced Chappelle? Why did they replace Chappelle with this d***?’ And I’m like, hey, guys, I’m not replacing anybody, man. This is my show, his show is his show. Matter of fact, I got shafted in the process, because I was supposed to follow Chappelle. Then there wouldn’t have been any comparisons whatsoever. But it is what it is, and you just gotta do the best you can.”
“Mind of Mencia” was canceled in 2008. Now, his focus is on his stage show, which, he said, is a full, polished evening of comedy that he has been working on for a long time.
“Most comedians, what they do is ‘try out’ their material. I had two and a half hours of material that I had to whittle down to about an hour. So, for me, the response is really different. 100 percent of the jokes work, 100 percent of the time. Now, I’m getting to the point where I’m not, ‘Do these work?,’ but, ‘How can I make them all, on a scale of 1-10, at least a nine?’ And that’s where I’m at.”
Email Jeff at PopGoesJeff@gmail.com.