Image Credit: Gustavo Caballero/Getty ImagesThere’s the old truism attributed to Picasso that good artists copy, but great artists steal. So does this make Carlos Mencia the greatest artist of our time? The stand-up comedian is known primarily from his former Comedy Central show, Mind of Mencia, but you could argue that he’s equally famous nowadays for his alleged joke-stealing, and now the accusations of thievery have led to something of a mini Twitter-breakdown.
This comes after comedy podcaster Marc Maron put together a fascinating hour of discussion about the comedian’s tendency to pinch punchlines, interviewing two of his friends and colleagues, as well as the man himself. It wasn’t the first time he’d been accused of plagiarizing jokes. Bro-median Joe Rogan confronted him onstage in 2007, and this video of Mencia telling a joke extremely similar to one told by Bill Cosby decades earlier has gotten nearly two million views on YouTube:
Maron comes off as impressively even-handed, even sympathetic, towards Mencia. He treats his actions more as a condition or a personality disorder than anything that’s actively malicious. The interview is pretty revealing, and clearly affected Mencia a great deal. Last week he Twittered: “I’m devastated. I canceled my gigs this weekend cuz at this moment, I don’t ever wanna do stand-up again that’s how hurt I am.”
A lot of comedians regard their jokes like children. After a painful creative process not unlike birthing, the joke comes into the world, but it still isn’t completely developed yet. It takes months, even years, of rearing it on the road, using trial and error, and continual tweaking, to make it into the joke it is today. So when a comedian steals a bit from another, it’s understandable that they may see it less as copyright infringement than straight-up kidnapping. See Patton Oswalt’s gut-busting rant prompted by his bizarre saga with an unknown comedy thief who copied large swathes of his hilarity verbatim.
What do you think, PopWatchers, is Mencia a thief, or is it just that his comedy tends to be so stock and obvious that comparisons with other comedians are inevitable? And if he is stealing jokes, should he at least try to steal better ones?