Celebrities and movie studio-heads embroiled in scandal and being put through the ringer of public scrutiny might be dominating the headlines at the moment — and for the guilty, rightly so. But for comedian Carlos Mencia, his own experience through the media gauntlet has brought a newfound sense of balance.
“I worked really hard, had a successful career. Had my first brush with success and it was awesome,” Mencia said in a phone interview from his home in Los Angeles. “That was the first big wave I caught in the surfing of life. I’m at the precipice right now of catching my second wave and for everybody to re-engage.”
The audience at his show at Temblor Brewing this Friday won’t be introduced to a “kinder, gentler” Mencia. Far from it. His incredulity and anger at people’s ignorance — willful or not— are still palpable, even when tempered with his current newfound sense of place, permanence and purpose. It’s just that the ire isn’t directed at his detractors. Well, not really.
At the height of his career, Mencia was filling up arenas (including our own Rabobank) and had a hit TV show on Comedy Central, “Mind of Mencia,” that lasted four seasons before going off the air in 2008. After the show’s cancellation and being hit with accusations of stealing material — a stigma that still haunts him to this day — Mencia quietly regrouped and worked on slowly rebuilt his brand and audience by focusing on his stand-up career.
In line with his upcoming Mencia-ssance are plans to film a new comedy special in January and developing a potential new TV show as well. According to Mencia, topically, it’ll be a different kind of show than “Mind of Mencia.”
“‘Mind of Mencia’ was an evergreen show where our mandate was to produce a show that could be aired years later,” Mencia said. “What I’m working on now will be more contemporary … I want to be able to be free to talk about what’s occurring right now.”
One of the topics that fires the comedian up is political discourse; not really the politics themselves but the way we talk about it. Mencia feels that our current state of conversational impasse is due to our inability to effectively communicate — or even attempt to. The abuse of hyperbole, the constant one-upping sensationalism in news, and the willing inability to find common ground keeps us divided and divisive.
For Mencia, the problem is that we’ve finding ourselves in a binary society of either/or; finding ourselves defending the indefensible.
“The fact that we are leaning toward a government now where it is bad — it is literally bad — to work with the other side and collaborate when that is exactly how our government body is meant to work … That’s crazy.”
“And for everybody in here who thinks that a life of no compromise is a happy life, I hope to God you get married and have three kids and call me back and tell me about (how) 'you’re never going to compromise.’ That’s the stupidest (thing) I’ve ever heard in my life.”
After talking with Mencia for a while, it's obvious he had a lot on his mind (Hey now!). For him, he's glad to return to a town — where he has performed since the early 1990s — that's had his back, even when others turned theirs.
“Bakersfield has been supportive of me and my comedy for decades. The beauty of Bakersfield — for me, anyways — is they always come back. It’s like performing for my family in my backyard and I appreciate that more than anything in the world."
Carlos Mencia, 9-11 p.m. (doors open at 7:30 p.m.) Friday at Temblor Brewing Co., 3200 Buck Owens Blvd., Suite 200. $35, available at eventbrite.com. Show for guests 18 and over; food sales will stop 15 minutes before showtime.
Selwyn Birchwood— Part 87 of the No Stinking’ Service Charge Blues Series, 7:30-10:30 p.m. Friday at World Records 2815 F St. $30, available at the shop. 325-1982, shopworldrecords.com.
Florida-based guitarist Selwyn Birchwood has been winning awards and contests around the country for good reason: He’s effortlessly outstanding and infectiously entertaining. His latest album, “Pick Your Poison,” packs a lot of punch. Anchored by a solid rhythm section and a killer horn player, Birchwood spends his time switching off between guitar, slide and lap steel while singing in a raspy baritone that reminds me of a young Joe Cocker.
The album goes through some winding paths. From the second-line/flute intro leading into a straight blues crunch on the album opener “Trial By Fire,” to the personal social commentary of “Police Truck,” to the torch song “Lost in You,” the album runs through a gamut of styles, feels and texture without feeling disjointed.
But on the bonkers “My Whiskey Loves My Ex” — my personal favorite — Birchwood and his band go through all three while playing undoubtedly the best imitation of a record skipping I’ve ever heard a band play. It's a hoot as well as musically impressive.
The 32-year-old Birchwood is a true student and disciple of the blues, and I think Bakersfield, who sure does love its guitars, will dig him the most.