Carlos Mencia’s “The Punisher” tour comes to Boston tonight for two shows at the Orpheum, where he’ll undoubtedly learn that in this town, “beaner” means something else entirely. The comedian formerly known as Ned Holness and I talked on the phone on Monday morning. His Comedy Central show, Mind of Mencia, finished its second season this summer as the network’s second most-popular program, and will return for a third season early in 2007.
It was before 9 a.m. when the phone rang. Mencia was ready and rarin’ to start talking. “I’m wired,” he said. He tried watching the “Star Wars” trilogy (Eps. 4-6) and “Angel” but still couldn’t relax. “I was watching ‘Charmed,’ and I said I suck, watching ‘Charmed’ in the middle of the morning and paying attention to the storyline.” He kept getting distracted by Alyssa Milano. “Maybe because I remember her as a little girl, it makes me fell dirty.” OK. Let’s talk about something else. He just celebrated his 39th birthday on Oct. 22. How was that? His tour was in Dallas that night.
“My wife came out,” he said. “They stopped the show, came out with a cake, sang Happy Birthday, and my whole vibe was, you’re ruining the show! Get the f— off my stage! You’re building a set, you’ve got these peaks and valleys…and then, bababababa! What the f— are you guys doing to me! It was good besides that. I’m a great showman. So I just care about the show.”
Do you think your comedy will translate as well up in New England as it does in California and the Southwest? Do different crowds react differently? “I don’t think so. At this point, I’ve been through the Midwest and through the Pacific Northwest. It doesn’t change. It really doesn’t. It’s not, I don’t know, it’s not ethnocentric in that way…I would’ve thought, like you, in Dallas, so many Latinos that it wouldn’t change the show.” But he added: “The diversity of my audience is so stunning now. It’s amazing. It’s beyond crossover. I’ve actually become a voice for white America. I’m stunned myself. It just seems no one wants to say the things that are on peoples’ minds, and it just seems to be resonating even more in the white communities than in the minority communities, which is really weird. From blacks and Hispanics, they’ve been saying ‘Tell it like it is, and thank you.’ But whites have been saying, ‘THANK YOU! We’ve been waiting to laugh at that for years’…it’s just this thing that’s been hitting home.”
He hasn’t been to Boston in quite some time. “At the Comedy Connection seven, eight years ago, maybe longer. It was a long time ago. It’s tough, though. It really is.” He explained: “When you’re at the level I was, before the TV show (Mind of Mencia)…you’re working 48 weeks a year, working hard, 50 weeks if you’re stupid like me. You go to a comedy club every six months, so you’re talking 25 clubs.” Which means his circuit skipped Boston for years.
“But I’m having fun. I’m having a lot of fun, because I’m doing something I haven’t done before. It feels good to be talking about something. As a minority comedian, quote unquote, it’s interesting to look at a time, to look around and see it’s not great to be a white American anymore…because you don’t have the same social rights as everyone else.” Color me curious. Go on. “Two black people who speak ebonics can go do the same joke and speak that way to each other, and not get sued. You make a white guy do that and he’s going to go to sensitivity training…whoa! And there’s a lot of stuff like that going on…It’s an interesting time, and I’m a part of that. I’m a part of talking about that.”
He contributed a short story to the new book, I Killed: True Stories of the Road from America’s Top Comics, about a gig in which he feared he would’ve gotten shot by Snoop Dogg’s posse after a show, except for the fact that Shaq was in the audience and stuck up for him. Does he fear any crowds now that he’s famous? Not really. “Of the hate mail I get that I answer, they return going, I was just pissed off when I wrote that.”
What about the backlash from other comics? Joe Rogan, took on Mencia online last year. Rogan isn’t the only comic who doesn’t like Mencia’s brand of comedy. Instead of asking about Rogan specifically, I asked Mencia about why the few stand-ups who’ve gotten big in the wake of Dave Chappelle (Dane Cook, Larry the Cable Guy and Mencia) all have major backlash issues within the industry. “It’s no different from every other comic who’s made it successful,” Mencia maintained. “The comedians that comedians think are great are either dead or not very popular, or very old. People go, ‘Mitch Hedberg, man, he was the greatest ever.’ DEAD. Or ‘Richard Pryor was the greatest.’ DEAD. But it’s the same thing, when Chris Rock did his thing, he was blahblahblahed, and black comics said he sold out…It’s going to breed hate and contempt from comics because of the way we are. We are egocentric. It’s all me-me-me-me-me-me-me.”
He knows what other comics are saying about Larry the Cable Guy, “his fans are stupid and they talk about redneck s—.” And about himself: “He pretends he’s Mexican and the Mexicans don’t even like that. But he’s Honduran.”
Believe it or not, when I talk to Dane or talk to Larry, we don’t even talk about that stuff, because it’s so benign to us. It’s par for the course,” he said. “I’m not worried when other comics don’t like me. I’m worried when people don’t like me. I’m not worried when critics say your show sucks. I’m worried when people say your show sucks. They’re the ones who make your show. They’re the ones who pay to see you, who go to see your movies.”
Related: Carlos Mencia’s home page.