Mind of Mencia ain’t no Chappelle’s Show (Or: Reason #327 why RooftopComedy rules over Comedy Central)
I wanted to like Carlos Mencia when his show fell into the slot vacated by Chappelle’s Show. Mind of Mencia first aired in July of 2005 amidst the announced delays of the highly anticipated third season of Chappelle’s Show, and before I get into trouble for lumping the two shows together based on the fact that their hosts are “non-white”, allow me to extrapolate. In terms of format, we’re looking at two shows that bring comics in front of a live audience to perform stand-up routines between bits of pre-recorded sketch comedy. Both were aired on the prime-time Comedy Central lineup. And yes, both hosts were not Caucasian. Considering the lack of mainstream variety shows hosted by people of color, this is a similarity I feel comfortable drawing without sounding like a tool.
(“Stop Carlos Mencia” graphic from BustedTees)
Let’s talk really quickly about the conspiracy theory I’ve been harboring since Chappelle’s Show went off the air unexpectedly. Seriously, I wrote one of my last papers in college about it and got an A. Thank you UC Santa Cruz. (Ok, what am I saying? UCSC doesn’t GRADE, I got a “Pass” and a paragraph about why my paper ruled, which I took to mean A++) But I digress. Chappelle’s Show was too smart, incisive and revolutionary to be broadcast on mainstream TV. His content hit home in a way that only truly brilliant social-political comedy can do. The “creative differences” that forced him to leave the show merely illustrate his artistic integrity by abandoning a platform that was no longer supportive of his vision. And thanks, Comedy Central, for slapping together a conservative, pro-war version of his show and passing it off as quality television. From the “Ask a Black Dude featuring Paul Mooney” feature, to “Black Bush” I was constantly amused and impressed by the show’s comic slant on race relations and global politics. I love moments on television where I wonder just how in the hell someone got that bit through their network censors. Yes, Chappelle has been criticized for his carefree use of the N-word and feminist critics were dismayed by his constant usage of the B-word. But what’s great about all of it is that there is some real social commentary amidst all the swearing that elevates the show above more than just raunchy Comedy Central tripe to be added to the endless barrage of trash television. So when Mind of Mencia began to pick up speed, I was looking forward to a replacement show that would fill the void in my television lineup.
I’m over it, Mencia. I’m currently watching a rerun on Comedy Central, and I’m pissed.
Mencia opens up the show with a brief sketch that fades in on a beach, rolling waves in the background and sandy shores in the foreground. A figure swims towards the camera – a Cuban immigrant played by Mencia arriving to America with enthusiasm. Hilarious. A dude with a cell phone walks by and says, “Obama won? Wow, it’s the first black president!”. The Cuban guy freaks out and runs back into the ocean as the scene fades to black and the show credits begin rolling. Enter Mencia, who walks onstage laughing uncontrollably at his own joke. He proceeds to do a bit about why he won’t vote for Obama – his name sounds “creepy” and “African”. It’s not about race, it’s about his name not sounding “American” enough. Then he launches into another bit about how he won’t vote for Clinton because she’s not hot. Because, let’s face it ladies, our only hope for empowerment is to lord hotness over drooling dudes who will then hand over their hard earned power to us. His words, not mine. So, in a sixty second segment, he’s enforced that Latinos hate Blacks, that different ethnic groups in the US should abandon their own cultures and conform to American ideals, and that women are powerless unless extraordinarily hot to men.
You know, I’m not looking for a politically correct performance here. I just want to see something on Comedy Central that’s funny and intelligent. Mencia, you suck. I have $5 on Chappelle kicking your ass in a cage match any day.
Read more about the conspiracy here, although I’m not particularly aligned to this train of thought.