Carlos Mencia: Not for the Easily Offended

| June 8, 2005

On stage, Carlos Mencia is self-conscious about his comedy, but not self-conscious as in, “Do you like this so far? Am I doing well? Can you relate to this?” He is self-conscious in testing his audience, finding out who is offended by what and then making a joke out of it. He understands that his work is not always popular because some people believe in being quiet about their feelings and hiding it under what is presumed to be society’s norm, that of politeness, not being racial about anything, not saying anything that would offend anyone in front of them. “But by ourselves, we’re all racial,” Mencia exclaims in a piece about racism in America.
Mencia’s style in seeing what his audience is made of is good because he’s far different from those comedians that try to make themselves look edgy. At the beginning of “Not for the Easily Offended”, he lays out the rules for his show. “90% of what you hear you’ll like,” he explains. “But there will be one joke where you’ll say, ‘F*** you motherf***er'” In this sense, he’s not the mild Chris Rock who just starts his performances with the first joke and moves on from there, talking about everything he’s known for. With Rock, as with other comedians, there’s a wall there. The audience is separate from the comedian. The comedian needs the audience, but it’s nothing like Mencia who wants to let his audiences know that they’re with him just as much as he is with them. At first, this seems like a hindrance. Why doesn’t this guy just get going on what he wants to say? Michael Jackson! Racism! Being searched at airports! Come on buddy, move it!
Within an hour, Mencia has used up the energy of three comedians, though it’s more of a concentrated energy. He knows what he wants to say, where he wants to go with it, and what props are available to cement it (a microphone stand and a stool). He’s not happy in how the school system of the United States has lowered standards to the point where, “the kid with Downs Syndrome can go to Harvard.” Take as it as you want because that’s the only way to understand Mencia. Is he saying he’s against kids with Downs Syndrome? Or is he not against those kids and just using the reference in his act? What kind of act is this? See? His comedy is based on what you base yourselves on. If you laugh at it, then you laugh at it. If you’re deeply offended, well, he’s only one man. That’s the way he works. He’s got his views and he’s gonna keep ’em. Being an immigrant from another country and raised in a harsh environment that included a man being stabbed outside of his house door, he believes indubitably in freedom of speech. But what he calls this country on is its bullcrap, how people get less smarter and more lazier. How they need programs, such as Bill O’Reilly, that interpret and tell them how they are supposed to feel about the news. Mencia obviously absorbed a bit from Carlin, but he’s not Carlin. His name should be used as much as Carlin’s is. He’s the new man for today’s times. He’s also a great comedian in that he laughs with the audience when it gets too much for him that he just has to let it out. Carlin stands on stage doing his spiel and is amused by the audience’s reaction, but he still has more to say. There are two moments in “Not for the Easily Offended” where Mencia cracks up. And while comedians aren’t required to do such a thing and merely meant to be funny, that makes him more human. He is one of us.
And Mencia is at a high advantage with this DVD of his show. Hangin’ with Carlos encompasses a day before he has to do one of his shows. It’s not this show, as Jason “Wee Man” Acuna (or so he looks) cartwheels across the stage. Mencia has scored masterfully with this, filmed as if it were a D.A. Pennebaker or Frederick Wiseman or even a Maysles Brothers documentary. He goes on a lively morning radio media tour, plays golf, visits what presumably is one of his favorite bands, P.O.D., and performs at the show. And there is no cumbersome voice-over narration, no talking-head interviews analyzing the appeal of Mencia’s routine, nothing that you’d find on a cut-rate DVD that doesn’t say much but makes itself look like it does. This is Mencia in full. He doesn’t act for the camera. He’s not one of those comedians and neither are the radio hosts or anyone else featured here. They don’t feel like this is the only exposure they’ll get, that in some small part a Hollywood executive might see this DVD and say, “Hey, we gotta get that radio host in a movie,” or “That band looks like they need a music video.”
There’s something worrisome though. People take, or took, George Carlin seriously. His “Words You Can’t Say on Television” was one of the biggest hits of his career and we saw that list shrink considerably. And while Mencia decries those shows that interpret the news so people know how to feel about them, “The Daily Show” is taken pretty damn seriously. Though in that case, it’s not so much people watching to know how to feel about the news, it’s about laughing at the news and possibly even becoming smarter by it. I hope that people take Carlos Mencia just as seriously. Comedy is meant to be laughed at, but his brand could easily be mistaken by the general populace as gimmicky. And it’s not. He’s not there to be one of those trained monkeys dancing to jack-in-the-box music. He is what he is. He also has a show coming to Comedy Central in July “The Mind of Mencia”. That will assuredly give him a wider audience. But Mencia should be seen or heard before that. He’s on this DVD. He has an album. He’s there for you. Find him and understand that some comedy cannot be shrunken down into a skit or a line of dialogue. Comedy is all-encompassing.

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