Tomorrow night, Comedy Central will broadcast Carlos Mencia's new one-hour special, "New Territory." And everyone is asking, “Has he stopped stealing jokes?"
It's impossible to talk about Carlos Mencia without mentioning "joke theft." Last year, Marc Maron confronted Mencia on the allegations on his podcast "WTF." Maron also sat down with Mencia's fellow comedians, Willie Barcena and Steve Trevino, in a separate podcast. And then he got Mencia to sit down for a follow-up discussion where Mencia said, "I was defeated... I don't know what to say. That was the beginning of the realization that, like it or not, I'm complicit in this."
Mencia was accused of stealing material from Bill Cosby, George Lopez and Ari Shaffir.
He isn't the first comic accused of stealing jokes and he certainly won't be the last.
The 44-year-old comic said he has been through a lot of personal changes. He described it as an "evolution as a human being" that is now incorporated into his new special. That's why the special is called "New Territory." He feels like he's "in new territory." Mencia said changing his style of delivering comedy was "really, really hard."
HuffPost LatinoVoices chatted with Mencia about his new special, his losing 70 pounds and living down his "joke stealer" rep.
Why was it so difficult to change your comedy style?
Imagine being successful at how you write and all of a sudden you have to come up with a new writing style because you realize what you were doing didn't really reflect you. What happened was, I would go on stage and tell a joke and it didn't work. Or it didn't work as well as I wanted to and I immediately wanted to go back to my old style of being you know, more aggressive and screaming or whatever, but I had to tell myself, “No, you have to trust it. You have to go with it.”
What was therapy like for you? What did you have to ask yourself?
I know what I'm not, but what am I? And, at that point, I realized that I needed to go seek professional help to answer this question because I obviously have no clue as to who I am.
Why did you decide to lose weight?
The weight loss came about because a buddy of mine who was diagnosed with diabetes because of his obesity told me that I was fat. And, I started laughing and he was like, no seriously, you're fat. And I said, “Oh wow, really.” People say, Congratulations to me but this is nothing to be congratulated on, anybody can do this. It's not hard.
Do people treat you differently now that you lost so much weight?
They look at me with reverence in a way that they never did before. Like with this level of respect that I never got before. And, believe it or not, in a weird way, a level of sympathy as well. I was never one of those fat victim people. I always have to address how much weight I lost and people always realize then how fat I was.
Your real name is Ned Arnel, why did you change your name?
The owner of the Comedy Store suggested it. She said to me, "You can't be an angry Mexican named Ned." I told her I wasn't Mexican and she replied, "Everyone is going to think you are Mexican. It's the way it is. Don't fight it." And, I remember thinking, “Well, I have an uncle named Carlos.” She said, “Carlos Mencia, that's melodious.” And, that was it.
Are you happy with your decision?
In retrospect, I believe that I am the first person who has a name that was pretty white and changed it to an ethnic name like “Carlos.” I actually did the opposite of what a lot of people did in my industry. But this was someone that could help me get my career going so, fuck yea, I'll change my name.
How do you feel about George Lopez getting fired from TBS?
Here's what I know about the business I am in. It's all based on money. It's all based on ratings.
I wish there were more like him on TV. We don't have that chance to fail because it becomes a Latino thing as opposed to a “Carlos thing” or a "George thing" or a time slot thing or a network thing. It becomes, "Latinos are not going to be successful in television." And, that's just bullshit.
How much has your reputation as a "joke stealer" affected you?
I had to ask myself, "Okay, why are they hating on me? What am I doing to facilitate this or to bring this on? Where is my part in all of this?" And, that's what became important. It became something to look at within myself.
Do you think you are ever going to live the reputation down?
I think that a lot of people don't understand it. If that reputation was real, I never would have gotten work at comedy clubs in the first place. They would've told me, "We can't have you here doing that stuff."
How have you changed?
My whole thing is, waking up everyday and thinking in the positive and not the negative. Listen, there are three people I know in the world, that professed love, harmony and peace: Gandhi, Jesus Christ and Martin Luther King. I don't even put myself in those guys shoes. But what I do realize is, if those guys have haters, it's just the way things are. You gotta move on. When I was younger, I was angry. I was boisterous and loud. I was on top of the mountain, screaming at everybody, "Look at me!" Now I'm more of a Taoist.
How has the audience embraced you?
I've never gotten a response that I'm getting today. I've never gotten the laughs that I'm getting today. Never gotten the respect that I'm getting from audiences. It's a different vibe, a different feel, and definitely a different type of special.
You talk a lot about America, why do you love it so much?
When I hear people say, “America sucks!” I just want to slap them in the face and say, "Shut up!" You don't know what suck is. You don't know what poor is. You know what poor in America is? I'm poor and live in the projects. You know what poor in Honduras is, that man died because of malnutrition.
Why does the set background of your new show say, "Department of Immigration?"
Part of those pieces of Americana in the background is me telling the audience that this guy's perspective is that of an immigrant.
You joke about the SB1070 law, but how do you feel about it?
Illegal immigration is not a problem in this country. The reason we have illegal immigration is because we give them jobs. We don't need any other law. Don't employ them, they won't come. That law is not necessary. It's that simple.
Do you ever regret anything you said on stage?
I've never said anything to be mean. The only things I wish I can take back, but not really, is how I dealt with the hecklers because it came off as so real but it wasn't. I wish I could go back and say, you know I'm kidding right? This isn't real. With stand-up, it's different. People believe that is exactly who you are and that might be 1 percent of your personality blown up for comedic purposes but people don't look at it that way because what we do we do so well that it comes off as that is exactly how we are.
What can we expect from the new and improved Carlos Mencia?
I have been writing screenplays, a couple of TV show ideas, a book and a one man show.
I plan to get back on that horse. You know, get out there again. I want the world to engage with Carlos Mencia again.