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Carlos Mencia | Inside the "Mind of Mencia"

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mencia2_m4.jpgI look up to all comedians. It's tough thing to do, stand up—you have to create everything. There's just a microphone and a stool sometimes and you have to get up there and create an entire vivid world.

 

 

 

 

 

I'm a huge fan of both stand-up and sketch comedy—well, comedy in general. In a life filled with stress, bills, work and constant images of war, poverty and a world in peril, sometimes it seems that all we have is our sense of humor. I'm a firm believer that laughter is the best medicine. It's always worked for me. My lifelong appreciation for the extremely difficult art of comedy began around the age of seven, when my dad used to allow me to stay up late and watch the very first "Not Ready for Prime-Time Players" take the airways hostage on NBC's Saturday Night Live. Since Belushi, Murray, Ackroyd and company first poked fun at presidents and celebrities alike in front of a live audience some 30 years ago, sketch comedy shows (including SNL) have become mainstays on both network and cable TV, providing a lighter perspective on our not-so-funny world.

A few years back, popular comedian Dave Chappelle combined his stand-up skills with sketches based on his act on Comedy Central's Chappelle's Show, which became an instant International hit. Shortly thereafter, the cable network for comedy groupies approached an edgy Hispanic comedian popular on the stand-up circuit, Carlos Mencia, about doing a show similar in format to Chappelle's. The timing couldn't have been better. The new show, Mind of Mencia debuted in the wake of Chappelle's turbulent departure, paving the way for a new king of sketch comedy.  Now in its third season, Mind of Mencia is one of Comedy Central's top rated programs, falling just behind South Park.

I caught up with Carlos Mencia by phone before his stand-up tour, which makes a stop in St. Louis on Thurs., Oct. 25 at the Fox Theater. He was easy and delightful to talk to—evidence of why his show relates to so many people. We chatted about his family life growing up in East L.A. and his thoughts on comedy and his stellar career.

 

So I have to ask, what was it like being one of 18 kids? I know you were raised by your aunt and uncle. Did you know all your siblings and get along with them?

I grew up next door to my mom and dad so it was really cool because I had like two sets of parents. When I'm at home and I say, "Mom," two people answer. It's really, really fun; I have a good time with my family. I was always aware of what was going on; my aunt and uncle could not have kids, so my parents were like "here, have one of ours." Normally in families, someone comes over and you're like "there's plenty of food for everyone." With us it was, "plenty of kids for everyone." But it was normal. It's strange though because when there are like five to ten people in my house, I feel utterly comfortable; it's when I'm alone or its just me and my wife in the house, that's when it's creepy.

You majored in electrical engineering in college. What got you interested in comedy?

I literally just fell into it. I never tried to be funny, I was never class clown or anything. I just got to a place where I'd be talking about things that were going on, things in the news or politics and I'd comment on how stupid things were and my friends would laugh. So they were like, "You should do stand-up comedy." I was 20 years old and I was literally like, "What is stand up comedy?" I had no idea. So, we went to a club one night, and I was like, "Hey, I can do that." A couple weeks later I started doing standup at an open mic night, and from that moment on, I knew what I wanted to do. I stopped going to school, I quit my job, got a job at a comedy club—it was just immediate.

What comedians are inspirations for you?

I look up to all comedians. It's tough thing to do, stand up; you have to create everything. There's just a microphone and a stool sometimes and you have to get up there and create an entire vivid world just with a microphone. I respect anyone who can do that—all comics that I think are beyond a certain level influence me, from Lenny Bruce to Chris Rock. Watching them as a comedian, you go "Wow that's amazing." I mean how did they do that, how did they get there, approach the subject, you know, the perspective, all of that; it's just amazing. I look at the diversity within us and I really enjoy it and love it. Then there are a lot of great guys people don't even know like Paul Mooney [of Chappelle's Show], who teach us young guys about pushing the envelope, so all of those guys teach me something. Then there are the technicians like Seinfeld, who are just technicians of the joke, or guys like George Wallace who just have the charisma to make an elephant dance—they all have something to offer.

Now that your TV show has been so successful, do you want to do movies?

Yeah, I did a movie with Ben Stiller that just came out [The Heartbreak Kid] and I'm working on another one right now, so that's all in the process. I really don't know where my career is going to take me but it seems to be going in a pretty great direction right now. | Amy Burger

 

 

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