Published on May 31st, 2010 | by Sharilyn Johnson4
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Marc Maron’s two-part interview with Carlos Mencia was released shortly before we spoke, and was being disseminated by every comedy fan with an opinion on Mencia — which is to say EVERY comedy fan. Material theft is considered the dirtiest of crimes, and Mencia has, whether intentionally or not, placed himself at the top of the most wanted list. The hardest of hardcore comedy nerds had their backs up upon hearing that Mencia would even be given a forum to speak, but just a day after Maron uploaded the second half of his interview, the verdict from listeners was in. Not that a verdict was asked for, though.
Maron: The feedback about the episodes has all been positive. How people feel about him, that’s on them. Some people feel sorry for him, most people are reaffirmed in their feeling about him. They at least on some level have a person to draw from, not an idea or something they’ve heard. They can make their own decisions about who that guy is now.
With the initial reaction to the interview’s existence being what it was, it seems almost like there’s rules for being a comedy nerd.
They can have whatever rules they want, but you don’t have to abide by their rules of what a comic is. If they want to be group think and decide who is successful and who isn’t based on what a few people say or a particular clique, they can do that. Oddly, for a group that you think would be sensitive to bullying and group think, they’re just as guilty of it. So my issue with them isn’t who they like or why, it’s when it comes to deciding what is good and what is bad, then I think they’ve got to check themselves a little bit.
You don’t think it comes from a good place, of wanting to see justice?
What’s their moral code? They’ll dismiss comics just because they’re associated with other people. I don’t see a law in place. I don’t see a moral code that has any consistency. Nobody likes stealing, but I can name you five alternative comics that are as derivative as anyone else. There’s no way to escape that. Without a code, then it doesn’t indicate anything but reactionary mob mentality. And there’s no indication that that mob would forgive. So where’s the justice if there’s no moral code? It just seems very one-sided and without any indicators. It just seems like basic mob mentality. I’ve been derivative, Chris Rock has been derivative, Louis CK has been derivative. At different points in anyone’s career I’ve seen everyone as being derivative and everyone’s been accused of taking this and taking that, but usually we’re like “oh, I guess that is similar” when we’re approached about it. So I don’t know where these people get off.
Even with the Patton Oswalt thing. You couldn’t handle that with a phone call? You really couldn’t handle that with a phone call? It’s self-serving after a certain point. That guy was no threat to anybody. That guy was never going anywhere. If that guy made any money off of that night it was $15 and a free meal. That guy was no threat to anybody, so now he’s an asshole to everybody in a certain circle. And for the rest of his fuckin’ life he’s got to live with that? That someone can wield that much power and be pressured by their fans that much to behave that way to a single person, whereas if he sent the guy an email, called him on the phone, you don’t think it would have been equally as effective? Now that guy’s gotta be afraid that he’s going to be recognized for being a douchebag everywhere in the fuckin’ country because he chose to do someone’s material in an almost theatrical way?
At some point celebrities have to take responsibility and sort of regulate how they want to handle this stuff. There’s too much power in the internet. Did that guy’s life deserve to be ruined, for that? Which could have been handled with “Hi, this is Patton Oswalt. Do we know each other? We don’t. I just saw a tape of you doing my bit. Can you explain that to me? Well I don’t think that explanation is reasonable, and I don’t want to take any further action, so I’d appreciate you stop doing that.” It couldn’t be handled like that because it was on the internet and there was pressure from the faceless mob for him to take action in a public forum. Is that the right way to do things? Is that how a justice system works?
Obviously you prefer Louis CK being mainly silent, whenever someone asks about Dane Cook, he generally doesn’t want to talk about it.
It’s the high road. This is comedy, this isn’t politics. This has no effect on the world. This is a cloistered bunch of faceless cowards acting at the behest of what? Comics have a window of about 3 or 4 years, if they’re lucky, to maintain cultural relevance and then they disappear. I’ve been doing this 25 years. I’ve seen plenty of people come up and go down. Plenty of people who should’ve come up, not. In the big picture, does it fuckin’ matter whether Louis CK speaks out against Dane Cook? Who does it matter to? And why should we give a shit about those people on some level if they’re going to demand of us do to vigilante justice?
Certainly comics should be protected in their material but it becomes very difficult to decide which material is original. It’s comedy. It’s relatively disposable. But when people have original pieces and have strong angles like Patton and like Louis, they should be protected. There should be ways to protect that, and there are ways evolving that they can do it. And action should be taken legally. Not this fuckin’ lynch mob bullshit. That’s not a democracy….
Standards are great, but if people keep nitpicking about certain things then people are going to be afraid to be creative at all. They’re going to be second-guessing themselves constantly. It was better when comics could say “hey, I think that’s like my joke”, and the guy could go “okay”. Instead of getting like 9,000 emails after some fragment of Youtube from some show that wasn’t even a money-making show or whatever. Then it comes raining down on somebody and completely stifles their creativity? It’s fascism. It guarantees that the person they believe in stays in power, and anyone they decide are derivative or treading on the territory of that person be eliminated. That’s fine if you want to invite that, I just have a personal issue with it. I think it’s ultimately going to be bad for comedy.
When you started out, obviously this culture of hard-core comedy nerds didn’t exist the way it does now. Are there other ways it’s had an impact, whether positive or negative? Is there an upside to it?
Yeah, there seems to be a vibrant comedy culture because of them, and it’s great. I think they’re a little bit elitist, but it’s still great. Anything that’s good for comedy is good for all of us. I think there’s a whole new group of people who are interested, and interested in a deep way.
Do you find since the podcast started you’re getting more of that group coming to your shows? I get a sense that you’re more of a nerd hero now than you were a year ago.
I don’t know. I don’t know who they are. I’m getting people who listen to the podcast coming…. but I know that half those people aren’t comedy people. That community has always treated me like an outsider, as well the mainstream comedy community has always treated me like an outsider. So now if they think I have a place in their world that’s nice, but I can’t tell who is coming out for me.
Do you think there are more people interested in learning about comedy who aren’t in or around the industry now than there was, say, a decade ago?
Yeah, absolutely. People are more interested in learning about everything because there’s more information available. I don’t think people even thought about it before even. [People are] celebrating comics as people, and as thinkers, and as people that have struggles outside of what they’re talking about on stage. People always assume comics are fucked up. But I think the fact that they overcome these struggles and they still do their jobs is relatable to anybody who has a job, and has to do what they have to do to get by alongside all the screaming insanity in their heads.