Loyal readers of this column know my distaste for generic Hollywood remakes, sequels and uninspired comedies. While moviemakers blame Internet piracy and bootleg DVDs for their drop in profits, I've always believed it's because the films they release are shitty and going to the movies is expensive, so people spend their hard-earned money elsewhere. I think that if Hollywood took the time to come up with new, innovative ideas and made quality films, people would start going to see movies in the theater again. I like to believe that the average American is smarter than the big budget studios give them credit for ...
But after hearing that Norbit grossed $34.195 million this past weekend, my faith in the American public has been shattered. Eddie Murphy in a fat woman costume was kind of funny in the Nutty Professor (which, of course, was a remake). But you need to stop encouraging him America. Eddie Murphy isn't funny anymore, he's throwing his career away and all of you are the reason why. Go back and watch his old comedy specials, go back and watch Coming to America. That's what the man is capable of. So stay far, far away from Norbit and perhaps it will force Eddie Murphy to actually be funny again.
Sometimes I wonder if I'm just out of touch with what the average American finds funny. I like to think of myself as a pretty funny guy. I'd like to think this column and our podcast have given you a few laughs. But when Norbit is number one at the box office or when Jay Leno constantly beats David Letterman in the ratings even though all of his jokes are incredibly obvious and safe, I'm left shaking my head and wondering what the hell is wrong with my fellow Americans.
Of course, as much as Jay Leno bothers me, I can at least understand some of the reason for his success - Leno tends to get bigger names for his show (even though his interviews with those big name celebrities are all incredibly boring and cookie-cutter). But there are some comedians out there that I can't understand the appeal of at all - like Carlos Mencia.
Like Dat Phan and Larry the Cable Guy before him, Mencia is a one-trick pony who bases all of his jokes on his heritage. If you were ever considering watching The Mind of Mencia on Comedy Central or perhaps going to a comedy club to see his act, I'll save you the time and money and give you the short version: "Mexican, Mexican, Mexican, blah blah blah, Taco Bell, cheap labor, Mexican, Mexican, Mexican."
I've always found Mencia's jokes to be boring and uninspired. They have the same kind of predictable punchlines that fill Jay Leno's monologues (minus Kevin Eubank's obnoxious laughter at the end). His jokes don't challenge you or make you think, like some of the best comedians' material will. Instead, he gets cheap laughs that he doesn't really have to work for.
But, to be honest with you, I never gave Mencia much thought. I tried to watch his show once or twice on Comedy Central, hoping to fill the void in my life left when the Chapelle Show went off the air (and failing miserably). Since then, anytime I see his standup on TV, I change the channel quickly. I tried to keep him out of my life as much as possible.
However, Mencia found a way back on my radar this week, thanks to Joe Rogan (of Newsradio and Fear Factor fame). Rogan has been going around for a while saying that Mencia steals jokes from other comedians. Things got heated this past Saturday when Rogan finished up a set at the Comedy Store in Hollywood and he introduced the next comedian, Kirk Fox, by saying that Fox opens for Carlos "Menstealia." Apparently, Mencia was in attendance and decided to get up on stage to confront Rogan. The whole thing was caught on videotape, which Rogan put up on his website (you can see the video here).
The video also presents evidence of bits Mencia has allegedly taken from other comedians. It shows the original comedians doing the jokes, then shows Mencia doing them almost word for word. Much like when Dane Cook was accused of stealing from Louis CK, it's pretty hard to argue with the evidence.
I guess what bothers me so much about Dane Cook and Carlos Mencia stealing jokes (if they really did) is the same thing that bothers me about a movie like Norbit - their material lacks originality, but they still have huge commercial success. People pay big bucks to see jokes that have already been done before.
We need to start putting our foot down. America needs to stop dropping cash on uninspired comedies and comedians rehashing other people's jokes. We need to stop rewarding unoriginality and laziness so that we get the quality comedy that we deserve. So please, when they make Norbit 2 and they give Carlos Mencia a role as Eddie Murphy's crazy Mexican sidekick, please, whatever you do, don't go see it.
Trust me, you'll thank me later.
Random thought of the week:
I hope you all had a great Valentine's Day, but in case things didn't work out the way you hoped they would, look on the bright side - at least an astronaut in a diaper didn't drive 900 miles to harm you.
Joel Murphy is the creator of HoboTrashcan, which is probably why he has his own column. He also has some really hot friends. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.