Carlos Mencia on past controversies, his childhood, and 007
|Photo by Randy Shropshire|
"I used to, but when you do, you start to begin to believe the good with the bad, and that's not a good mixture. Not good at all," Mencia says. "At the end of the day, you're not as good as the people who think you're the greatest, and you're not as bad as the people who think you're the worst. Those extremes are not good. One takes you to a place that makes you think you're god-like, which you're not, and the other takes you to a place that makes you think you're worthless, which you're not."
One of those extremes took place in 2007, when Joe Rogan infamously accused Mencia of being a joke thief onstage at the Comedy Store. Video footage of the confrontation went viral, and the incident follows Mencia today. He has been called one of the most hated comedians, but it doesn't bother him anymore.
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Mencia says that he writes a lot, and some people don't think it's possible to come up with as much new, polished material every day as he does without stealing from other comedians. One joke in particular that he was accused of copying was about Proposition 187 in California.
"Bottom line is this: There was one joke in particular that 10 of us did, but of the 10 of us, I was the only one accused of stealing. That makes no sense whatsoever. When that happens, you just go, 'Okay, I'm the target. There's nothing I can do.'"
When asked if the plagiarism claims were false, Mencia is quick to answer. "Of course they were. I don't do that." He says there is no way to prove that his jokes are original, and he can't spend his life defending himself and watching other comedians' work to make sure he doesn't do anything similar.
At his show last week in Cleveland, Mencia says he was reminded why he loves comedy. A woman diagnosed with terminal cancer spoke with Mencia after his set. She said she was in constant pain, but during the time he was onstage, she forgot about her illness.
"That's what's important: making people laugh, making a difference in their lives, giving them such positivity that they're able to deal with their hardships in life," Mencia says. "That's what life is all about: affecting other humans in the most positive way. That is what sticks with me. Nothing else."
Mencia is no stranger to hardship. Born in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, as the 17th of 18 children, Mencia was raised by his aunt and uncle in the Maravilla Projects in Los Angeles. He says his humble beginnings made him into the comedian he is today.
"It's influenced me in the sense that everything becomes funny. The more hardships you have growing up as a comedian, the bolder your comedy becomes because those are the things you had to make funny," he says. "People have hardships, people have problems, people go through ups and downs in life, and, especially in this country, we're told we're not supposed to laugh about it. People like me want you to laugh at that because that's what we had to make funny. We had to do jokes about our friends who got shot in a drive-by or OD'd on drugs. Those are the things that we had to live with, and sometimes the only way to live with that is to ignore it or to embrace it somehow through comedy, accept that it happened, laugh at it, and move on."
As a young comedian, Mencia constantly felt the need to prove himself, but that isn't important anymore.
"I used to be the guy shouting it from the rooftops, 'This is funny,'" he says. "Now I'm like, 'Oh, you guys are here to laugh? Awesome. Come here, let me share that with you. Let's laugh together.' It's a completely different attitude, and I've never been funnier in my life."
Mencia says some of his best shows have been in Minnesota, and he looks forward to coming a few days early to explore the Twin Cities. He plans to ask fans via social media what he should do here. He also hopes to do a little gambling at Treasure Island, where his show is.
"I grew up watching James Bond. So, believe it or not, when I go to a casino and put money on black or roulette or whatever it is, I kind of feel like I'm some super spy living this awesome 007 dream in my head."
IF YOU GO:
Treasure Island Resort & Casino
5734 Sturgeon Lake Road, Welch
8 p.m. Saturday, August 17
$49 & $59