Maybe two-thirds of the way through the interview, Carlos Mencia detonates this bomb on my sensibilities: "If people are gonna pick on one comedian, and make him the target of all those jokes, thank God it was me. Because guys like Richard Jeni killed themselves for much less.
"I'm glad it was somebody strong enough to be able to get past it, and not do something really stupid," Mencia continues. "And by the way, not to say that I haven't at certain points contemplated suicide, or killing other people, to be honest."
Instinctively I make the sign of the cross, and silently thank the 45-year-old for saving all of us from himself. So spared, I'm left to ponder where Mencia's self-congratulation for not murdering anyone ranks on the list of Most Arrogant Remarks Ever Uttered.
I'd guess it's in the top 95th percentile, but since God's name has been so recently dropped, I remind myself that only He knows for certain.
Anyway, what's especially jarring is that in talking like this, Mencia is doing exactly what he said he would, earlier in the interview.
"I'm going to be the best comedian I can be, and all that other stuff, I have no control over. All I can do is say what I'm gonna say. You're gonna interpret those words as you want ... and I have no control over that. ... I can't think about that. I tried that already. It didn't work."
Certainly, Mencia occupies a strange fissure in the cultural terrain. After rumors of plagiarism began to circulate last decade, the Honduras-born comedian became himself the butt of many a joke, brutally and tirelessly parodied by everyone from South Park to cracked.com. A certain joke about swimming following Hurricane Katrina didn't help, either.
Yet endure he does. With TV specials still airing, his current C 4 UrSelf national tour, and, according to him, a new TV show being negotiated, the star of the now-defunct Mind of Mencia seems not to have gotten the public's memo on how to disappear completely.
Although he says he's working in a "positive" direction, he admits that comedy isn't comedy without an edge. "Comedy always derives from negativity," he says. "[But] I don't think that comedy itself is negative, because what comedy intends to do is take those negative things and turn them into positive things. ... I talk about stuff that's real, make people laugh about stuff that's real, so that when they go home, those things are a little more palatable, a little funnier, a little less intrusive, a little less scary."
Pretty words, those, but the question still remains for our funnyman: Is that actually what he does onstage? Do Mencia's infamous too-far-gone "jokes" really succeed at lifting the crushing weight of the unsmiling world from all of us mortals?
Thing is, they might. And Mencia might just be the most absolute and obscure variety of martyr. No one in the audience would kid themselves that he's died for their sins, but his conviction that he has is so sincere, they might just forgive him for it. And, you know, laugh about it.
"There's one thing I guarantee," he says. "You will leave fully entertained, and you'll say, 'I haven't laughed that hard for a long time.'"
The striking colors and textures are reminiscent of Southern Colorado and New Mexico. Lovely work.