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As Promised, Carlos Mencia Returns to the Morris

Observer Scene | Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Last fall, renowned funnyman Carlos Mencia brought his aggressive and often criticized humor to South Bend. His first show at South Bend’s Morris Performing Arts Center – which actually occurred at Mencia’s urging – was truly a hot ticket, selling out before the Sept. 30 performance.

While local patrons obviously appreciated Mencia’s last stop in South Bend, it wasn’t just the audience that enjoyed the performance.

“It’s a really interesting show. Last year I was in South Bend and a lot of people wanted to come. It was one of my best shows if not the best,” Mencia said.

Mencia enjoyed the performance so much that he promised to return to South Bend for another performance.

“Some doubted that I would be back next year,” he said. “After the show I thought, ‘Wow, this is a great market!'”

Carlos Mencia’s most recent success can be attributed to the popular sketch comedy show, “Mind of Mencia,” which recently completed its fourth season on the television network Comedy Central. Since its debut in July 2005, “Mind of Mencia,” has enjoyed increasing success, becoming a staple on the popular comedy network.

Known for his exploitation of stereotypes and questionable depictions of ethnic and social groups, Mencia’s comedy is often criticized as inappropriate and crude. Mencia, however, disagrees.

“American has freedom of speech. I’m not trying to be edgy or controversial. I’m really not doing it to get a reaction. I believe in freedom of speech and freedom of thought and I exercise it,” Mencia said.

While his jokes may seem abrasive to some, Mencia believes the arousal caused by his jokes is simply the exaggerated reaction of the “sensitive society” in which we live.

A self-proclaimed intellectual, Carlos Mencia didn’t realize he had a future in comedy until he was about nineteen years old.

“I was never funny as a kid, but I always saw the irony and the angst in life,” he said.

He said his closest friends provided the initial motivation to develop his comedic talent, Mencia said. He described his first performance experience as an epiphany.

“From the moment they said my name, I knew that God put me on Earth to be a comedian. I knew at that moment. There was no doubt,” he said.

Once Mencia’s talent manifested on stage, there was no looking back. He promptly quit his job and dropped out of California State University, where he was studying electrical engineering. The results of Mencia’s early career decisions turned out to be incredibly fruitful, as he is now one of comedy’s elite.

Although Mencia’s material continues to evolve, he admits that he harbors rooted influences from some of history’s greatest comedians. He cites the work of Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Sam Kinnison and Bill Cosby as some of his more popular influences, while also drawing motivation from lesser-known artists like Paul Mooney and John Companera. Mencia regards the successes of other comedians as a valuable resource, while acknowledging the importance of defining his own personal style.

“Anyone who claims to be a self-made comedian is mistaken… but I do want to become my own entity on stage after having all of these influences,” he said.

While Carlos Mencia continues his “At Close Range” tour of 80 American cities, he is unsure of what endeavors the future holds. Regardless of what path his career takes after his tour concludes in January, Mencia wants his fans to know that his time in entertainment is far from over.

“I don’t know what the future holds. I’ve gotten lots of offers from different T.V. stations, radio stations as well as movie offers. I want to do bigger and better things. I want my fans to know I’m not going to be a one-trick pony,” he said.

For now, Mencia will continue his comedic assault on America. Though the future of his career is presently undefined, Mencia is sure that the comedy will continue.

“I’m like a fighter just out of training. I don’t know who I’m fighting, but I’m ready to fight,” he said.

Contact Patrick Griffin at pgriffi3@nd.edu.