Carlos Mencia on his sketch show's second season
Carlos Mencia, comedian and Comedy Central star, talks about his political material, his family, and more
Carlos Mencia is sorta like the Kanye West of comedy — brash, talented, and a wee bit full of himself (among his claims: ”The Latin Kings of Comedy DVD exists because of me, even though I wasn?t on it.”) But the Honduras-born, East L.A.-raised comedian can be forgiven for having an ego the size of a casa: His sketch show, Mind of Mencia (which kicks off its second season on Comedy Central March 22), is as hilarious as it is pointed — and last year it was the top new cable comedy among adults 18-49. Dressed in an oversized soccer jersey and baggy jeans at his airy Encino, Calif., home, the 38-year-old comedian holds forth on dealing with network censors, what’s better about the second season of Mencia, and whether those jokes about his wife are really true.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: It’s been such a big year for you, with the TV show and your comedy tour. What’s it like to get to this place after 18 years in the business?
CARLOS MENCIA: When you have a goal and you reach it… you feel great, but it’s not like the Super Bowl. When you win a Super Bowl that’s the climax, and then the next day you don’t have to do anything; you’re off. It’s not the same as that moment when they call you up and say, ”Hey, we’re ordering 13 episodes of your show,” and you’re like, ”Yes! I’m gonna make it!” And then you’re like, ”I hope people watch it.” And then when people watch it, you’re like, ”I hope more people watch it.” And then when more people watch it, you’re like, ”I gotta make sure that all those people keep watching it.” So it never ends.
Having been through that experience, could you identify with Dave Chappelle at all?
Yes. Except luckily I have been in this business for a long time… and I have a second corporation that sells merchandise and clothing that’s all related to Carlos. And it’s a big moneymaker. I’ve always understood the reason why it’s called show business. When Comedy Central said, ”You can’t say that because it’s too crazy, it’s too edgy, we’re still a network, we still have standards” — I understand that… That means I’ll just [say those things] in my act…. You just have to talk it out and understand that [the network is] selling commercials. Without them selling commercials then I don’t make any money either.
You’re on during Dave Chappelle’s old time slot. What do you say to people who think you’re trying to replace him?
The weird part was at first we were gonna go on after Chappelle and before The Daily Show. And then all of a sudden he’s not there. So we’re like, S—, what are we gonna do now? And then they said, ”Well, we’re gonna put you [in Chappelle’s time slot],” then I thought, Oh, f—, now people are gonna think that I’m replacing Chappelle…. I was like, Dude, I’m as angry as you are that Chappelle’s gone. The ratings that we would have got just by him being the lede-in — we would have maybe doubled what we got from the beginning of our show. It would have been unbelievable for us…. We just had to deal with it. The beauty of it is, looking back at the success of the show, I feel really good about the fact that it was almost on its own pretty much.
Your family situation is interesting: You are one of 18 kids. Is that for real?
Yes, yeah, I know. I have 11 sisters and 6 brothers. [My birth father] calls me up every once in a while. He was kind of a victim in this whole thing. And I say that in a weird way, because if you ever interview my mom, here’s a man who’s having two families going on at the same time. So I have a sister who’s three months older than me. But when I was born, my dad wasn’t part of my mom’s life. I was his first son. He had eight girls and then me. So he wanted me real bad. That was part of the reason my mom gave me to my aunt and uncle [to raise]… to be like, ”F— you, that’s what you get for cheating! That’s what you get for having two families.” It’s a weird dynamic, but I just look at it like, Hey, these are things that happen — that’s life. In America, when there is a divorce, it shatters the community. Whereas I’m like, They got divorced — big deal…. It’s weird because when you’ve lived the life that I’ve led, almost everything is normal.
As a minority, do you feel you have a tougher time in the business?
The comedians with attitude are minorities. Usually black, Hispanic, Asian, and here’s why: If ABC puts a show on about a predominantly Asian family and it’s successful and then the next year some other Asian comedians go and say, ”You guys have a Chinese show, that’s awesome. My family is Korean”… First of all, the majority of people aren’t gonna know the difference between Chinese and Korean, and [the network is] gonna say we already have our Asian show. When you’re told we already have our [fill in the blank] show and you’re part of that group, then you begin to know there’s only one spot for our people! So it’s me against that other motherf—er. So everybody that’s Asian, you are now my enemy. Because I can’t root for you… If I root for you and you get [a show], that means I don’t. It’s not like Friends. When Friends is successful, next year every single network has 10 Friends. That s— don’t work for us. George Lopez has been on the air for four years, and I don’t see a truckload of other family shows with Hispanics in it. It doesn’t work that way.
On your show you talk about politics and issues like immigration and racial inequality. Are you trying to change things with your comedy?
I think that’s a dangerous question, and here’s why: Yes, a comedian makes you think while he makes you laugh. There’s a really weird thing that happens when you get popular: You can [go without getting] a laugh for a longer period of time. That is really, really not what I want to do. I never want to forget that my job is to make people laugh. And believe it or not, I don’t personally want to change things, it’s just part of who I am. I’m a teacher and a philosopher by nature… In the end I’m trying to teach people to live a better life. And if I can do that on top of entertain, then I leave the world a better place.
So what’s coming up for the new season?
It’s gonna be a much broader show. The production will be better — not that the writing will be better, but it’ll be more expansive. There are many ways to expand the show and keep the voice of the show, so we’re working on that now. I don’t just want to do ”the president this” and ”race that.” We’re just getting more artistic — [doing] things we didn’t know we could do last year.
Like movie parodies. Last year we didn’t have the budget to do a parody of Brokeback Mountain. Last year they would have said, ”Well, we gotta get horses; we don’t have the budget for that.” Whereas this year we have a budget that will approve renting a horse, going to shoot in the mountains. Last year if we wanted to do something like that, we would have had to think of three other things that we could shoot over there to justify the expense.
Does your wife ever get upset when you mention her in your act? You do call her fat.
She’s not fat. But I can’t say before I was married I had a girlfriend who was fat, ’cause that’s just too complicated. I just go, ”You know what, babe? You’re gonna take a bullet for me. Sorry.” No, my wife is the opposite. When my wife says, ”How do I look?” I say, ”You’re 6 feet tall, you’re blond, you’re beautiful, and you’re thin. How do you think you look?” It’s annoying…. She has the personality of an ugly chick — she really means it when she asks if something looks good.
Do you guys want kids?
We want her to go to the doctor and make sure she’s healthy and all that stuff. If the doctor says she’s fine, then we’re probably going to [start trying]. It’s so weird — I feel so white when I go, ”We’re gonna start trying to have kids.” ‘Cause when I tell my dad, he’s like, ”Trying? Just do it! What do you mean try? There’s a bed, there’s you — do it!” He doesn’t get all that. But it feels really foreign to me to plan, you know? My parents never planned their kids — they just boned and kids came. It was just like that.