Carlos Mencia has a new attitude about his stand up — and his life. The veteran comic, who’s best known for his four-season “Mind of Mencia” run on Comedy Central, has refashioned his act over the last few years to be less confrontational. His new attitude on stage has come along with a 70-pound weight loss and extensive therapy.
“It’s an ever-evolving process, but I think I’m much more refined now,” says Mencia, who will perform 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 22, at the Tropicana Casino and Resort in Atlantic City. “I always do a good show, but there are moments when I’m really excited about what’s coming out of my mouth, and this happens to be one of them.”
The Honduras native, whose last special “Carlos Mencia: New Territory” debuted in late 2011 on Comedy Central, is prepping material for a new one, although he doesn’t yet have a date or venue to tape it.
Ahead of his A.C. show, Mencia talks about how he reshaped his material but kept his edge and addresses the issue of whether his jokes are really his own.
Q: How do you know when your material is ready to be captured in a special?
A: There does come a time where I feel like the stuff I’m doing is not just funny but relevant, and that’s when I really get that yearning. That’s when I jump up and say to everybody who works around and for me, “You need to see this set and we need to get this on TV and document it.”
Q: What’s the tone of your current set — is it more political or personal?
A: It’s political, it’s personal, but I think the relevance of it more than anything is the stuff that talks about how we as a society function and the things in society we lie to ourselves about, that peeling of the layers of the onion of who we are and who we pretend to be — that kind of stuff is awesome.
Q: But you’re trying to connect with audiences without hitting them over the head with your points?
A: Right now I’m hitting all those themes in the best comedic way. I don’t think I was mature enough before to live without the rub of antagonism. “What are you stupid, if you don’t see that?”
Today, it’s much more reflective — it’s not what are you doing, it’s what are we doing? It’s those small refinements that make it something completely different.
Q: When you released your last stand-up special, you had just lost a lot of weight and gone through therapy. Do you feel like you’re more self-aware on stage?
A: I think the difference was at that point in time, I was trying to be where I’m at. I knew what the changes were, and I was consciously trying to ingrain those things in me, but now those things are innate. Back then, I knew that I should pay attention to negativity. Criticism is one thing, but I didn’t want to pay attention to that stuff, and I tried to stay away from it.
At one point in my life, I felt I needed to prove to everyone that I was worthy of the accolades, that I was worthy of the success, that I was worthy of everything that came my way and that I deserved it. When I went on stage, that drove everything. Whereas today, when I go on stage, right before I step on stage, I go, “I have a gift, and that gift is my life, and I want to share that life with anyone who wants to receive it.”
I don’t need to convince anyone of anything — I don’t need to prove anything to anyone. Because of this, I can now say things even edgier than when I thought I was edgy, and people don’t even flinch, because of where I’m coming from.
Q: There have been questions raised in the past about the sources of your material. As you craft new jokes, do you ever worry that they might be similar to another comedian’s work?
A: At the end of the day, when all the stuff went down, I knew my body of work would speak for itself. I’ve never pretended to be anything but what I am. Somebody says, “You stole a joke.” You can’t prove to somebody you didn’t hear something or that was your experience.
As long as you’re not popular, no one is going to accuse you of anything. The minute you become popular is when people are going to accuse you. It’s the nature of man. At the end of the day, I’m doing my thing to the best of my abilities.