Carlos Mencia will piss you off, make you squirm and make you laugh. And laugh. A graduate of the Chris Rock school of stand-up, the Latino comedian makes a point of angering his audiences with his take-no-prisoners style of racial humor, peppered with bits about gays, “stupid” people and, even (gulp), those with Down’s Syndrome. Combining superb facial and vocal gymnastics with his “right” as a member of one of America’s oppressed classes to cross lines you didn’t even know existed, he’s an equal-opportunity offender. In the wake of 9/11 and the subsequent heightened attention to racial issues, Mencia is especially skilled is in playing with whites in the audience: first he assaults the collective sense of “white guilt” with jokes about “retards,” “beaners” and “sand-niggers,” then he skewers whites with the same dagger, leveling any sense of smug superiority in the process. For example, he brings an oh-so-wrong riff on airport racial profiling—OK for Arabs, not OK for blacks and Latinos—to a crescendo when he reminds us who committed the other major act of terrorism on U.S. soil, the Oklahoma City bombing. Call it shock and guffaw. (Brian Hieggelke)
Carlos Mencia performs at Zanies in Chicago and its suburbs January 18-23.