Carlos Mencia is returning to Central Florida for a series of shows at the Orlando Improv, November 19-22.
Mencia, born Ned Arnel Mencia, is a Honduran-born American comedian, writer, and actor, best known for his Comedy Central show Mind of Mencia.
Last year while he was in town, I had the chance to talk with him after a show. We chatted about his comedy, his family, and his Latin influences in his act.
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Chantal: So what has been your most exciting point in your most recent tour?
Mencia: You know what, for me, I know this sounds corny but it’s true, I wake up every day being thankful for whatever gift that day gives me. And every day there is an unbelievable, awesome gift. I kind of live life like that because it gives me the opportunity to exist in the moment and not have to look back to days of the past of “Remember when” or look to the future, “It’s gonna get better.” It doesn’t get better than this moment right now. This is all I’ll ever have, you know? Everything I’ve done is done and everything I’m gonna do I can only do in that moment. So this is the moment where I exist and this is a gift and there is always something pure and beautiful to look forward to, so I live there and I’m really happy.
Chantal: That’s wonderful.
Mencia: Very zen.
Chantal: I’m envious. (laughs)
Mencia: No, well, you know what it is, people like drama. You know what I mean? Think about this, people in America wishes that we had a government that worked that passed good laws – passes certain laws – we wished we had jobs and that the budget wasn’t that bad. Well, when we had the lowest unemployment, a government that functioned, and a surplus in budget instead of a deficit, we impeached a president for lying about a b.j.
Mencia: But the reason was, we need drama. People need drama in their lives to function. Because people assume you judge everything by the worst day. So the worst day makes good days “better.” But why is a sunny day better than a rainy day? Why is a windy day not as good as another day? It’s all a matter of perspective. If you view those days as gifts, as, you know, I’m here. Because here the day, if someone were to tell you you’re dying in a month, all that shit you think is important to you right now, would mean nothing to you. You wouldn’t care about that stuff. That’s what’s real. If you’re able to, like, really live in that place, you can live that way, you can really be happy. You can understand that all that shit is inconsequential. It’s just stuff that we want to worry about. So that we can talk and go “You’re not gonna believe what a bad day I had!” Or “You’re not gonna believe what great day I had.” So the truth is that, it’s all a matter of perspective, it really is. And I know there are people who are like “Well that’s bullshit because when my car payments are done, my car pay are done.” Ok, here’s what I mean by that. Let’s say you have no money and you’re car payment is done. You’re not gonna make that payment. You worrying about it, is not gonna help you. You being stressed about it, is not gonna help you. You fighting with you family, parents, boyfriend, girlfriend, over that, not gonna help. Now, if you find a solution and you work towards that solution, that does help, but you don’t have to be in a bad mood for that to happen. You don’t have to be an asshole to be like “Hey I don’t want them to repossess my car, I need $250 bucks to make a payment.” You know have to be like [in one of his classic goofy voices] “You’re not gonna believe! Well my car! [inaudible]” And your parents are gonna be like “Fine, we’ll lend it to you.” It doesn’t have to go that route.
Chantal: Now, see, that sounds like conversations I’ve had with my mother.
Chantal: Except I’m the one going “You need to calm down. Take a breath.”
Mencia: Yeah, you know, you’re mom is probably Latina.
Chantal: You met her.
Mencia: Complaining about everything, whining, saying “Ay dios mio” and that martyrdom. “Ay, you know what I did for my children? You know the sacrifices I made for you, now you can’t even lend me 200 dollars? Ay, dios dios!” And you’re like “Jesus Christ.” I get it.
Chantal: Do you have cameras in our house?
Mencia: That’s my mom, what are you talking about?! That’s everybody’s Latina mom. Like, that’s everybody’s mother, you know what I mean? It’s doesn’t matter, like, people don’t understand it’s the same thing. You go to the south and there’s a mom going [country accent] “Oh geez, I made so sacrifices, but my children just- You don’t love me, you don’t love mama. A son wouldn’t do that to his mother.” It’s just, you know. It’s what we think we’re supposed to do. You know? I’ll give you an example, people say… Ok that majority of the people, if you ask them, who are you? They would say “I’m the amalgamation of the result of all the years of the life that I’ve had.” But that’s not really who you are, because you can let things affect you or can you let things not affect you. And, so, everything that had happened doesn’t necessarily have to define who you, you allow it to. If you date somebody and they break your heart and you become callous, you allowed that to make you callous. [The breakup] didn’t make you anything, you allowed that to happen. And so, when you see it that way, you realize you’re in so much more control of your happiness than anywhere else.
Chantal: Do you ever see yourself as a philosophical person?
Mencia: Well, I grew up in a really poor and dark place, so the things I had to make funny are “edgy.” You know what I mean?
Chantal: Yeah. What’s one of the biggest struggles you have as a comedian?
Mencia: So, I get what I do. The thing is that the struggle I will always have as an entertainer is to never take that part of me so seriously because, then, I’m going to become preachy. There are times when I do. When I’m so stuck on that message that the funny part of what I say isn’t really there as much, and so, my struggle is always “That’s not my job.” My job is to make people laugh and if when in the confines of that I can do something else, then that’s awesome, but priority number one: the joke has to be funny. It has to be funny. It has to make you laugh.
Chantal: And they are.
Mencia: That’s where I function. I wanna do more than that, but only if it can happen. It’s not the mandate. The mandate is Funny. Everything else comes secondary.
Chantal: You have such a grip on the crowd that, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but, when you do get into those serious moments, there’s a hush [over the crowd].
Mencia: Right. But I’ve earned that. I earned that through the years of standup. I earned that through performing and I earned that through being brutally honest. Not just about life, but about me. Some of the things I say on stage that I do, you know, I don’t know if they’re “good”, you know? They’re just honest and that earns me a little respect from the audience. When they go “You know what? When I see someone who just got back here from Africa, I get a little scared. I don’t want to get ebola.” You know, we all have those thoughts and I think that, making people feel bad about those thoughts is very detrimental because it makes people feel that they’re not worthy. That their humanity is compromised. The interesting thing about that is we do it to people we shouldn’t and we don’t do it to others. Like if you have glandular problems, those people shouldn’t be made fun of or be talked to in that way, but if you’re just something who’s overweight because you love food, then you shouldn’t complain if somebody does a joke about that. You didn’t have to be this way, you chose that, and not in a bad way. That’s your choice. I chose to be the kind of comedian that I am. A lot of people, some people, are not going to enjoy my comedy. I get that. I can’t disguise my act and thoughts through a puppet. I think that’s genius, by-the-way. Like, if I had a puppet, he would be more brutally honest than me and I would be the one going “Bro!” and he would the one saying just the most honest shit you could think of. I think that’s genius. That’s a way to convey that message outside of what we do. I’m just an authentically, honest comedian. And it’s fun, it’s fun to see people’s reaction when I go down on a mic in such an authentic, real way that, not only is it funny but there’s that man “How is?” like “What the fuck?” like there’s dudes that watch that impression that look at their chicks and go “Why can’t you do it like that?” and there’s women that go “I can’t do that!” There’s something really awesome about that moment.
Chantal: Which is why it was hilarious when you gave Cisco the same mic you went down on.
Mencia: I do it every show.
Chantal: You do realize why you wouldn’t be able to do that with a puppet, right?
Mencia: I probably would. I’d probably find a way to make the puppet’s mouth to fit [the mic] into the puppet.
Chantal: I just mean the fact that you’re Latin and we talk way to much with our hands.
Mencia: Our hands? Yeah. It’s interesting because I’ve never heard, yeah, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Latino ventriloquist.
Chantal: Probably because of that very reason.
Mencia: Yeah, he would probably have to invent a puppet that moves his hands. It would be the first puppet of its kind that doesn’t just move its mouth, but the hands point and stuff. That would be interesting.
Chantal: When you do these [long] tours, what do you find helps you cope with all the traveling?
Mencia: Because I don’t look at all the traveling as a bad thing. I mean, ok, let me give you an example. Let’s say I looked at life differently. Let’s say I said to you “There’s $500,000 waiting for you and all you have to do is get on a plane and go to New York and two days later you’ll get on a plane and go to Chicago. You’re going to do this all year long and at the end of the year you’re going to have that money.” Most people would say “Holy shit, I’m going to get that.” I do it because I enjoy the look on people’s faces when I say something that is funny and profound. That moment. That moment of “Oh shit, I never looked at it like that. That is so right or so real.” That moment is the moment for me and there are many life it. A moment where someone says “I was in Afghanistan and watching your DVDs got me through it. The days that I just want to say ‘I can’t do this anymore’ and we’d watch your show and you made us laugh about stuff that was going on here.” Those are the moments that I live for. Those are not the moments that allow me to do what I do, those are the great moments that happen on a daily basis. So traveling is the least hard thing that I do.
Chantal: How have you managed to stay so grounded?
Mencia: I don’t know. I don’t judge myself, so. You judge yourself and you become the people that judge you. Judgement, the worst judgement that anybody could have is the judgement of yourself. Think about this — I gotta do another show, but we’ll end it with this—think about this, people have treated you badly, think about what they’ve done and what they’ve said, and think about the worse things that you’ve done and said about yourself and I guarantee you that nobody has ever been as mean to you as you have been to yourself. Nobody has ever punished you, as you have punished yourself. Nobody has ever hurt you, as you have hurt yourself. And when you realize that you’re the one doing the shit to yourself, you’re the one feeling bad, you’re the one feeling guilty, and you’re the one feeling shame. Even if I tell you that you should be ashamed of yourself, you don’t have to feel it. When you accept that and take it in and do it to yourself, that’s like some really fucked up shit. Everybody does it. All you gotta do is stop. All you gotta do is “I don’t want to punish myself. I’m an asshole. I’m a good person.” Whatever it is, if you stop punishing yourself, you’ll realize that the rest of the world can’t do shit to you, they never have. It’s all self-imposed.
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Tickets to see Carlos Mencia at the Orlando Improv are $25 or $45/$50 for VIP, which includes meeting Mencia before the show. For tickets or more info, visit theimprovorlando.com.
For more information on Carlos Mencia, visit carlosmencia.com.
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