“Mind of Mencia” is Tiny
Monday, June 25, 2007
There are few people I despise as much as Dick Cheney, but Carlos Mencia makes the shortlist.
When his show first aired on Comedy Central, my friends all described him as the “Latino Dave Chappelle.” That must have been a coping mechanism to deal with the untimely demise of the brilliantly funny “Chappelle’s Show,” because although Mencia and Chappelle share a no-holds-barred, politically incorrect brand of racially charged comedy, Mencia is certainly no Chappelle.
For starters, Chappelle has talent, which Mencia largely lacks. And his comedic repertoire extends beyond racial jokes. Okay, okay. Not very far. But Chappelle’s brand of racially charged humor isn’t completely devoid of redeeming qualities. When Chappelle played Clinton Bigsby , the blind black white supremacist, he was providing social commentary on the absurdities of racial bigotry. Flagrant use of the “n-word” aside, Chappelle’s comedy often plays off of racial stereotypes to remind us of their silliness.
Mencia’s racially charged comedy, on the other hand, lacks any nuance or undertone. Other popular politically incorrect comedies, including now-cancelled “Chappelle’s Show,” “The Sara Silverman Program,” “South Park,” Family Guy,” “American Dad,” “Moral Orel,” etc. all have a certain tongue-in-cheek quality. While many of the punchlines are racially charged, there is a crucial subtext that’s missing from Mencia’s humor.
For example, when Eric Cartman makes anti-Semitic remarks on South Park, more often than not the bigger joke is that Cartman is a narrow-minded jackass. One might argue that Cartman represents the bigots we’ve all met in the real world, and his character often ends up being the butt of his own racist, sexist or homophobic jokes.
Mencia, however, merely echoes back racial stereotypes and bigoted jokes, many of which are stale and outdated. Not to mention many people in the comedy community have accused him of stealing his bits. The fact that the self-proclaimed “beaner” went by the name Ned Holness until he was 18 doesn’t help his street cred much either. And despite often claiming Mexican roots, he was actually born in Honduras (his mother was born in Mexico, however).
In the past decade, we’ve taken Richard Pryor’s brand of politically incorrect, racially charged humor and dialed it up more than a few notches . By in large, I think this brand of humor is healthy for society, bringing underlying racism to the surface by allowing us to laugh with one another and to recognize the ridiculousness of cultural stereotypes…even when they have a grain of truth to them.
But in my opinion, Mencia’s jokes do little in this regard. He merely solidifies and perpetuates racism with jokes that cater to our cultures deep-seated stereotypes rather than challenging them. His now-famous catchphrase “Dee-dee-dee,” which pokes fun at the mentally handicapped, is very fitting for Mindless Mencia.