When: Friday, Aug. 20, 8 and 11 p.m.
Where: Crackers, 6281 N. College Ave.
Reservations: (317) 255-4211
Onstage, he's an "equal opportunity offender." But over the
phone, Carlos Mencia couldn't be more gracious – even after a couple of
rough nights dealing with multiple shows, an annoying fan and a bout of
"I'm all about being positive," he said. "How can I make a
better product? How can I make you laugh harder? How can I surprise you? That's
the place where I live."
Mencia comes to Crackers on Friday as part of a 29-city tour
to hone the material for his next standup special. For 30 minutes, we talked
about his preparation, saying the n-word, the Maggie Rita's restaurant chain
he's started and his feuds with other comics. Here's the conversation.
NUVO: How are you feeling?
Mencia: I'm feeling better. I got my ass beat last night.
NUVO: What happened?
Mencia: At the end of the show, there was a heckler. He was
a nice guy, but he heightened that intensity to an unsustainable level. The
show ended up being a little longer. And then adrenaline kicked in. It was just
one of those nights. The night before, I had two shows, then after that I had
to review the actual set to see what I wanted to keep and what I wanted to edit
out. My voice is cracking and I can't get to sleep, so I take a sleeping pill,
not realizing I have to get up in two hours. It was one of those nights.
NUVO: So what was he heckling you about?
Mencia: He wasn't really heckling me. A lot of people who
don't know standup don't grasp the concept that we're talking while they're
there. We're not having a conversation, per se. This guy didn't understand that
any questions or any "you know what I'm sayings" are rhetorical in nature. I couldn't
be a dick to the guy because he's a fan and I'm never mean to people like that.
But then what do you do? The guy kept going, "Yeah, that's what I'm sayin'" or
"I don't agree with that." Whoa. These are jokes, dude. You don't agree with jokes.
NUVO: How many years have you been doing standup?
Mencia: Going on 23.
NUVO: Do you think audiences are getting dumber? Or is it
that they don't know how to act in social situations?
Mencia: I believe that the Internet changed it. But I think
a lot of it has to do with social media. I'll give you an example. I was
talking the other day to some kids and then to some older friends. All the
young people I spoke to, when they talk to other people, they're all texting at
the same time they're speaking. And they don't find that rude in any way, shape
or form. They're just being themselves. That's what you do. The older people
are like: Man, can you believe that? It's a different generation. Our
generation didn't have a way to criticize everything. Today, people are asked
to comment on everything they see, watch and experience on a daily basis.
NUVO: You're coming here to prepare for your next special,
Mencia: Yeah. In the L.A. area, there are six comedy clubs I
regularly go to when I'm preparing for a special. Because of social media,
people found out that I do that. So a lot of my fans said, "We do we have to
suffer for that?" I was like: What do you mean? They're like: Why don't you
come and do that in our town? It was one of those things where I had no answer.
Honestly, what better way to test material out?
NUVO: Is this the first time you've done it this way?
Mencia: Yeah, this is the first time.
NUVO: That's a really interesting way to approach it. But
what happens if you try a joke in one city and it kills, but you try it the
next city and it bombs?
Mencia: It's never like that. They may vary in reaction,
depending on the wording. I know all the immigration stuff is going to be more
relevant in the southwestern states. But in the east coast and Midwest and
Florida, you feel how that perception becomes a comedic reality for me. I know
the stuff is important and I know it's funny, but when it begins to work
everywhere, that's when you know, wow, that's really good stuff.
NUVO: I saw a YouTube clip where you said that 90 percent of
your act makes people laugh, but there's always a joke that offends people.
From what I've seen, that seems to be your favorite part of the show.
Mencia: I joke, but I don't mean to offend. I swear to God,
I wake up every day thinking funny. The reason why it tickles me when I say
something and people are offended is because I just can't believe they're
offended. I can't believe they're seriously like that and acting that way. I'm
not up rallying to destroy, to kill. There is no propaganda. In no way am I
saying, "Take this information and do more with it." It is literally just a
contemplative look at reality and what I think is the ironic perception of that
reality. We live in America, we have freedom of speech, I'm telling a joke and
you're getting offended? That blows me away. So that's what it is.
NUVO: So when you've had occasions where people have
criticized a joke and you've apologized for it, is it painful that people don't
understand? Or sometimes is it your fault?
Mencia: I'll always apologize if I hurt somebody's feelings.
But I never apologize for actually telling the joke. Because if I do that, it
means I knew it was wrong to say that in the first place. I don't agree with
that. No matter what you say, somebody is always going to get a hair up their
ass about something. You just have to be yourself. If you grow up in a house
with no adversity and your life has been pretty successful and your trials and
tribulations have not been deep or painful or hurtful, I'm not your guy,
because I'm going to talk about those trials and tribulations of life and how
they affect me personally.
NUVO: Let's talk about your Comedy Central show (The Mind
of Mencia). Did it run its course?
Mencia: Yeah, after four years, I rejected so many pitches
because it was like, "Yeah, that was funny, but we did something like that in
season one." Or I already saw something like that on another show. We were
getting to a place where we were going to become redundant. At that point, I
researched it and found that shows like that one have a two- or three-, maybe
four-year course. I'd rather have people angry that the show is not on the air
anymore than to have it where people aren't watching.
NUVO: You're pretty comfortable when you use the n-word. Tell
me about that.
Mencia: I'm comfortable with any words because I grew up
around them. I grew up around a neighborhood where Mexicans called each other
beaners. My black friends would be like, "Yo, nigger, when we goin' here? Yo,
nigger, when we goin' there?" So, to me, that was normal. I remember the first
time a black friend said to me, "What are we doin' today, nigger?" I was like,
"Whaaat?" I knew I was a wetback and I knew that I was a beaner and I knew I
was spic, but I had no idea I was a nigger, too.
NUVO: You started this tour in Phoenix. So no boycott for
Mencia: I don't get involved in that stuff. That's not my
deal. My deal is to make people laugh. If I do have an opposing view, I do
think it's better that I go into that town, that state, and perform there and
tell people, "You guys are assholes and this is why I think you're assholes."
I'm not going to say it in another state. I'm going to tell them to their face.
NUVO: Did you tell them?
Mencia: Oh, God, I did about 20 minutes on immigration. But
to me, it's not political. What I try to do in comedy is take things that are
in the zeitgeist of humanity and speak to that one truth that everybody can
cling to, that one joke where everybody goes, "Well, I can't argue with that.
That's just true." Immigration is not a Mexican problem; it's our problem.
Because if we didn't have jobs, they wouldn't be here. They'd go back to
wherever they came from if it wasn't for the fact that we gave them work. And
then I can tell a joke.
NUVO: You've gotten into the restaurant business, which is
one of the hardest businesses to succeed at. Why did you do that?
Mencia: Because I'm stupid. Come on. Who would get into a
business where 90 percent of the businesses close up within the first year?
I never stop. My brain never stops, my heart never stops.
Opportunities in life come and go and you've got to jump on them when you've
got a chance. But in all honesty, let's say this franchise became my Planet
Hollywood and 10 years from now we have 40 franchises and we go public. All of
a sudden, I'm Kenny G, who invested in Starbucks when it was a young company
and now he's a billionaire.
NUVO: You don't want it to be your Planet Hollywood, though.
That didn't end well.
Mencia: You know what I mean – my Chili's or my
NUVO: I have to tell you, I really enjoyed this
conversation. You're not at all what I expected. I guess I expected someone
who's more intense and angry, like the persona I see onstage. So the last thing
I wanted to ask was, in your career, you've had some fairly public feuds with
other comedians. How do things stand now?
Mencia: All those feuds were never instigated by me. I've
never had, and hopefully never will have, anything bad to say about others. My
act – going back to what you were saying – is an act. But it's also
my outlet to say what is honest and real. My personality onstage is something
that would not be inviting outside of the stage. I embrace that. I would never
want to be that person off stage.
But I would never want to be the person you're talking to
right now onstage. I'm not entertaining the way that guy is. So I try to marry
those people – the calm, introspective, intellectual human being with the
comedian – onstage. Onstage, I'll literally pull my balls out if I think
that's going to be hysterical. I literally go from one extreme to the other.
When I get up in the morning, I remember that I'm an
immigrant to this country. I was born in Honduras, and if I was still in
Honduras, I would be this talented, but I would be the funniest guy milking a