Like pretty much every other comedian, Carlos Mencia considers Donald Trump a “gift” to his profession.
Still, the comic, who catapulted to fame thanks to his wildly popular series “Mind of Mencia” in the mid-2000s, has something in common with the 45th president of the United States. He has never operated with a filter or within the confines of so-called political correctness.
“Here is the thing. I make fun of every president; everyone has their foibles for whatever reason. You have to have a certain level of arrogance to believe you of all people can run the greatest country in the world. You’ve gotta have some ego to do that, but usually they keep it in check. Usually they don’t tell the world, ‘By the way, I am the only one who can do this.’ So that’s our start-off point, that is the beginning of this government. The guy is just gold for comedy,” he said in a phone interview with The Modesto Bee from his home in Los Angeles.
For the 49-year-old comic, no subject is off limits, from racial stereotypes to political figures to the American psyche. He brings his brash brand of comedy to the Gallo Center for the Arts on Wednesday, April 5.
Mencia, whose family immigrated from Honduras and grew up in East Los Angeles, said he brings a different perspective to the current discourse. Still, his objective on stage isn’t to be a political comic like Dennis Miller or Bill Maher. Instead, he said he keeps his act apolitical while still bringing up politics,.
“My act isn’t political, it’s not about that. I don’t want to change people’s mind of who to vote for, what to vote for. That’s the hard part, to take away the defensiveness of people who voted for him,” Mencia said. “Comedy is about everything that should be, but isn’t. The president of the United States should be a leader not just morally, but intellectually. When the president is not that person we think, you gotta do jokes about it.”
Still, he is quick to point out his act includes jabs at Hillary Clinton, and in the past, George W. Bush was a frequent target. He also pulls no punches when it comes to the American electorate as a whole.
“I hate the doom and gloom of today’s society. I read something like 80 percent of Americans never leave the country. That’s why it’s easy to tell people that America’s broken. They don’t know any better,” he said. “I am an immigrant and there’s a reason immigrants rarely speak ill of America. It’s because we know better. If I never left that country, I’d be the funniest guy milking a cow.”
Mencia, who went to Garfield High School in East L.A. – of “Stand and Deliver” fame – fondly remembers those who helped him along the way. His favorite teacher while in school, who was from Modesto, encouraged him to go into AP English instead of regular English. He went on to graduate and pursue a degree in electrical engineering at California State University, Los Angeles.
But the comedy bug bit him, and by 1994 he was featured in the HBO Latino comedy showcase “Loco Slam.” In 2005, he landed his own show, “Mind of Mencia,” for Comedy Central that ran four successful seasons. But in 2007, his stratospheric rise was halted when fellow comic Joe Rogan confronted him onstage during a set in L.A. and accused him of plagiarizing other comedians’ work. Video of the altercation went viral and cemented his reputation in the comedy world as a joke thief, considered an unforgivable sin in the profession. In 2010, he went on the acclaimed comedy podcast “WTF With Marc Maron” to explain and defend himself for over two hours.
Since then, his status as a comedy pariah has lessened and he has never stopped touring or performing for eager crowds. While he has moved on from the incident, he said during that time there were moments he felt both “homicidal and suicidal.” These days, he has made inroads with the comedy community and even, he claims, received a few apologies. And he has done his share of apologizing as well.
“I’ve apologized to the comedy community. When I was younger, at showcases, I was a young cocky kid whose attitude rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. I came from the hood, so if you showed weakness, you got shot at. It took a long time to shed the armor and grow up,” he said. “Now, the comedy world has looked back and said that was wrong. The Internet was young. The way the comedy community is treating people today that are accused of similar ‘crimes’ is to not chastise them in similar ways. Even people who at one point in time were very anti-(me) are now like, ‘Wow, really sorry about all of that.’ It’s life, it is what it is.”
Still, he takes in stride whatever shots his career has taken over time.
“If the worst thing in the life of Carlos Mencia is for a period of time I went through some doldrums because the comedy community had disdain for me, that’s OK. That was a long time ago,” he said. “The only thing that I could do from the beginning was keep doing what I’m doing and show the world who I am. I’m in a good place and my comedy has never been better. You rise to the occasion when tragedy comes around. It’s a great time to come to see me rise.”
WHEN: Wednesday, April 5
WHERE: Rogers Theater, Gallo Center for the Arts, 1000 I St., Modesto