Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Best Of: August 2007

Jim originally posted this back in August of 07, regarding Comedy Central's usage of "comedian" Carlos Mencia to be the flagship for their network since Dave Chappelle went all ...Mariah Carey-crazy and bolted for fucking.... Africa.



Anyway, enjoy. -ed.

"An Open Letter to Comedy Central: re: Carlos Mencia"

Dear Comedy Central/Viacom,

"The Mind of Mencia" has been airing on your network for almost two full years, and since has spawned something like four or five seasons since its inception. I'm writing you today to ask you to please cease and desist with this tripe.

I understand how it happened: Chappelle went Mariah Carey-Crazy, jumped the first jet to Africa and left you suits holding the bag in regards to a culturally relevant, hilarious 22 minute television programme starring an influential minority. You saw that you needed to plug the leak in the dyke as fast as possible, so you removed your thumb from your ass and jammed it as hard as you could into the widening gap.

No one blames you.

So you thought to yourselves that you'd find another "controversial" minority comedian who probably had some sketch comedy ideas kicking around, and Carlos Mencia seemed to fit the bill at that time. And again, no one blames your decision on this; Mr. Mencia at that time was relatively still underground but a fast rising star. He was "The Punisher of Comedy" and you guys wanted to bet it all, thinking you should snag him up before ABC gives him a sitcom ala George Lopez.

So you brought in Mr. Mencia and said "look Carlos, we love what you do, and we want to bring you to a wider audience. We want 'Carlos Mencia' to be a household name." And I'm sure he was on board for this. You gave him some creative licensing control, let him do his own writing, developing, etc. But what you didn't count on was that Carlos Mencia is a one-trick pony at best.

I've watched a number of episodes of "Mind of Mencia" and I find the title of the programme to be both ironic and telling. "Mind of Mencia" is twenty-two minutes of mindless jabbering and soap-boxing. The diminutive host dresses as if he shops at Baby Gap, with his "youthfully hip" t shirts and hoodies. It seems that he takes great pains to get his jokes across to the masses, and I'm sure he's under some oversight from Standards and Practices to keep things somewhat tasteful, even though the show is rated TVMA. But we know the big black block of a rating that pops up at the beginning of the show is a bait and switch tactic. There's nothing very adult about his humour at all.

Let me break down how I view the show in its entirety: There might be a half-hearted sketch at the show's opening depicting something overtly racist. Maybe Mr. Mencia has donned "white-face" make up and is acting like some pompous politician, or maybe he's donned "black-face" make up and is acting like some overzealous rapper. Either way he hops around his sketch like a wounded Ashlee Simpson at a live recording of Saturday Night Live.

Next there will be the typical splash graphic opening that I suppose is "edgy" and "urban" for the RedBull swilling kids who are just getting home from their jobs at Domino's Pizza or who are too stoned to change the channel after watching the same South Park you've been airing since May. Then Mr. Mencia will make his first appearance.

So he comes out holding a microphone, even though he's wearing a lapel mic. Mr. Mencia will then go on roughly a four minute mini-monologue about something about living in LA, or being a "beaner" or whatever happens to be the topic of the day. He tries very hard during this part of his show to really reach out to the television audience to get his socially charged point across. But again, he's falling short. He laces what could easily be a thoughtful speech with "duh-duh-duuhs" and mindless yelling. And then Mr. Mencia will shepard a D List level comedian who might really need the exposure on a nationally televised basic cable tv show, out on to his stage and let them rant, while he forces himself to laugh at weak attempts at humor. The whole thing is staged and very fake. For a viewer to convince themselves otherwise of the fact would be doing a disservice.

Then there's a commercial break, and when the show comes back, we the viewer are typically treated to a "man on the street" type waste of seven minutes, where Mr. Mencia and what I presume to be a small film crew, scour the streets of LA talking to tourists. The subject matter is usually something race driven, because the bulk of Mr. Mencia's schtick is racially motivated.

For instance, Mr. Mencia will ask a white person to immitate a black person, or have a black person immitate a jewish person, or have a hispanic act like their really mad at their boyfriend and hit him over the head with a chanchla... or sandle in English. He may or may not incorporate the use of a dwarf or his mentally handicapped brother Joseph in this portion of the show.

We go to break, and come back.

The last vignette is usually an in-studio sketch with a remarkably elaborate setting. I do have to give the set designers they're due in that regards. I wish I had more nice things to say about the show other than that, but I will give credit where credit is due.

On the subject of in-studio, how do you sell tickets or ... fill the seats of this set? I find it very hard to imagine people lining up to get into this show, but then again, the collective intelligence of Americans is somewhere between Forest Gump and Peter Griffen.

Anyway, so this last sketch will exhibit a number of horrible actors parading on to the set playing the role of despondant teenagers who are in need, apparently, of an attitude adjustment from Mr. Mencia. Mr. Mencia will usually take the role of some sort of authoritarian and the template is always the same: You'll have a depressed white "emo kid" who Mr. Mencia will tell "you're white, you have nothing to be depressed about!" a gay asian "you're gay, but it's ok, you like to do nails!" a butch lesbian "you should go try out for the Olympics... the Male Olympics!" a dumb blond "thank god you've got titties!" And finally a stereotypical black "gangsta" who Mr. Mencia will tell "you're homeboys won't always get your back when you go to jail, but he will!" and cue an obviously homosexual character who will come out and chase the character around the set and that's a wrap.

It's all very analgesic, and yawn inducing.

Again, suits, I appriciate the bind you were all in when you lost the greatest star to Comedy Central since Jon Stewart. But I urge you, on behalf of lovers of intellectual and thought-provoking comedy, please cancel "Mind of Mencia." I'm sure you could fill the empty time slot with another episode of South Park or Scrubs, or MadTv, or Drawn Together. All these shows are genius examples of greatly inspired writing and production.

Or, ... or you could stay the course and keep contributing to the "dumbing down" of America. ...But do you really want to be responsible for another Republican president? ...Think about it.

Thanks for your time,

PS: And while we're at it. Let's hit the brakes on anything "Blue Collar" or with Larry The Cable Guy involved in it.

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