Carlos Mencia, Greg Fitzsimmons, and some other guests will be performing in a comedy concert to benefit the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District’s Edison Language Academy this Sunday, January 11.
Mencia has been performing comedy for 21 years. He was born in Honduras but was raised in East Los Angeles by his aunt and uncle. He started doing comedy while attending college and working at Farmers Insurance. Mencia told the Mirror that his co-workers noticed, “he was not trying to make people laugh, but was funny.”
In 1989 Mencia left college to become a comedian after a successful performance at an open mic night at the Laugh Factory. He now hosts and is one the executive producers of the Mind of Mencia which will begin its fourth season on Comedy Central this spring. Mencia also regularly goes on tour doing his stand-up act.
Mencia writes his own material for his stand-up performances, but his staff writers prepare his TV material. Mencia’s comedy is largely based on his personal experiences. He focuses on race, politics, class, and society because that’s what inspires him. However, he has also made jokes on other topics, and he told the Mirror “you name it, I’ve stepped on it.”
When asked about how he would classify his type of comedy, Mencia stated, “It’s honest. I grew up in a poor neighborhood that was somewhat violent, so I saw extreme things so my comedy is extreme.”
Mencia also responded to the criticism about his use of Latino racial slurs by fellow Latinos in his routines by stating, “Racial slurs are part of life so they can’t be ignored. I’m a communicator trying to get my point across.”
Performing at benefits is part of Mencia’s philosophy to give back as much as he can. He is looking forward to his performance this Sunday by providing humor “to a world that needs some laughs to benefit kids.”
Grace Phillips, Co-Vice President of Fundraising for the Edison PTA, explained to the Mirror that many of the families that attend Edison Elementary School are low income and therefore the school “can’t do the same level of fundraising as the other schools in the district.” The school can’t do a silent auction or a direct donation drive. That’s why the idea of a comedy concert was so well received.
Phillips also pointed out that in these tough economic times PTAs are being asked to cover more of their school’s expenses than in the past. In previous years, the State of California had paid half of Edison’s reading intervention program but no contribution is expected for the summer of 2009. She hopes funds from the comedy night will allow her PTA to “meet their ambitious goal of protecting this intervention program.”
Proceeds from the concert will also go towards supporting instructional aides, art and music programs, field trips, and assemblies.
It should be noted that not everyone is enthusiastic about Mencia’s participation in the benefit. The Association of Mexican American Educators (AMAE) has decided to protest the event. The organization’s President-elect, Elias Serna, told the Mirror” to have someone who has made millions using (Latino) racial slurs in his comedy” come and raise money for Latino students is contradictory and ironic. (See his Letter to the Editor on pages 11, 12.) Attempts by the Mirror to reach others opposed to Mencia’s appearance were unsuccessful.
Joining Mencia will be Emmy-winning comedian/comedy writer Greg Fitzsimmons (VH1’s The Best Week Ever, The Ellen DeGeneres Show), an Edison parent who came up with the idea for the benefit. Tickets for the show are available at brownpapertickets.com.