What's it take to escalate to the top of your field? That’s the question behind Tr3s' new show La Escalera (or "The Ladder" for the Español impaired). And who better to kick off the series than comedy kingpin Carlos Mencia? He’s conquered the standup stage, had a hit TV show, and even gotten praise for his big screen acting chops. And now Mencia is revealing everything, from his humble Honduran roots to his tumultuous relationships with other Latino comics.
Carlos was actually born Ned Holness in the tiny Honduran city of San Pedro Sula. Mencia jokingly told us that if you Google Map his hometown, it’s literally nonexistent (or as he puts it, "in the middle of nowhere"). And as if being born in impoverished surroundings wasn’t bad enough, his mom was caring for 17 other children by the time he arrived.
That’s when the family decided it was best for Carlos to have his upbringing in the good old U.S. of A. So at two-years-old, "Ned" was sent to live with his aunt and uncle in East Los Angeles. And being raised in a primarily Latino neighborhood didn’t start out easy for the young Mencia, especially with his "unique" first name.
"My mother figured we are going to America, they speak English. I am going to give him an American name," Carlos recalled. "That would’ve been awesome if we were moving to Missouri, but not in East L.A. On the first day of class, I knew I was going to get beat up."
But with his trademark sense of humor intact, Mencia overcame the "Ned" factor and soon adjusted to life in L.A. In fact, he became a stellar student. By the time Carlos got to junior high, his teachers were pushing for him to jump to the 10th grade. And that’s when everything changed.
Mencia’s uncle decided it was time for him to get a taste of his Honduran roots and sent him on a one-way trip back to his home country. For three years, Carlos learned to milk cows, paddle canoes, and adjust to a life unlike anything he’d ever known.
Though he did make it back to the states by age 15, Mencia confessed that his Honduran years fueled a lot of frustration, perhaps even adding to his edgy style of comedy. But he wouldn’t capitalize on his comic sensibilities until he was a high school grad, studying electrical engineering.
"I was never a class clown, I was always into studying," Carlos said. "But I started discovering comedy because I would watch The Joan Rivers Show. Joan had a lot of comedians on and I was like 'wow, these guys are funny'."
Mencia would then practice material to his coworkers and fellow students, who encouraged him to pursue a standup career. Soon Carlos began generating buzz on L.A. open mic nights and eventually caught the eye of Comedy Store owner, Mitzi Shore. Interestingly, Mencia confessed that it was Mitzi who christened him "Carlos" and encouraged him to drop the Ned moniker. She felt it would better sell him to audiences…and she was right!
So with his family’s blessings, Carlos entered the world of comedy and proved to be a rapidly rising star. Almost immediately, there were HBO specials, sitcom appearances, and eventually the opportunity to headline his hugely popular Comedy Central series, Mind of Mencia.
"Mind of Mencia was awesome," he went on to say. "We ended up doing four seasons. I really loved that show."
And Mencia’s Mind soon pushed his fame into the stratosphere, giving him the opportunity to headline at some of the country’s biggest venues. Even though his act has been a bit controversial at times, Carlos told us he feels more well-rounded than ever with his comedic approach to all things Latino.
"Being a Latino from Honduras, was the best thing that ever happened to me personally," he said. "Because if you watch my comedy, you’ll always see one thing. I never tackle it from one side. It’s always a multi-faceted approach to a subject."
Have you ever thought about a career in standup comedy? Sound off in the comments or @MTV3.
Copyright : Tr3s