Friday, March 02, 2007

What's Beef: Carlos Mencia vs. Joe Rogan

I'm tryna' kick the shit you need to learn though/ That ether, that shit that make your soul burn slow

Beef is good business in hip-hop. Careers are made and broken by it. It's a spectacle like the WWE or Ultimate Fighting Championship.

In stand-up comedy, the big beef is between Carlos Mencia and Joe Rogan. It came to a head last month when Rogan was hosting a comedy show in LA, and while introducing an act, he referred to Mencia as "Men-Stealia," alluding to the charge the Mencia is a noted joke thief within the stand-up circuit. Mencia happened to be in the room, didn't take too kindly to the diss, and went on stage to address the situation. This set off a shouting match witnessed by a few hundred people live at a comedy show, and a few million who have since watched it on the internet.

Rogan, the host of Fear Factor on NBC and a veteran stand-up comic, has been riffing on Mencia, host of the Comedy Central hit "Mind of Mencia," for a long time. The internet beef has been buzzing for the past few weeks and, after a local writer mentioned it in his column tagline, I decided to check it out.

The clip is 10 minutes long, and can be viewed here

Basically, it's a tightly-edited propaganda piece produced by Rogan, with clips of the infamous Comedy Store show down mixed with pointed text aimed at punking Mencia.

During the video taped standoff, Mencia calls Rogan a "little b----" and says nobody cares what Rogan is saying. Rogan appears to have the crowd on his side, particularly when he gets on the mic and responds to Mencia. Rogan gets some good digs in about how Mencia is a good performer who doesn't write his own stuff.

Mencia tries to respond in his loud-mouth, reactionary manner but it doesn't work. He's too much on the defensive. Rogan specifically cites a joke that Mencia stole from another comic and Mencia denies it. That comic, a jewish cat named Ari, comes from the crowd and tells Mencia straight up that he stole the joke from him. Mencia is visibly stunned.

In comedy terms, Rogan ethered Mencia. I'm sure he can go back and high five his fellow comics, all the ones who shluck from gig to gig because they want to avoid real work. But that's about it.

Ultimately, only comics really care who steals material and who's truly original. The general public doesn't care. Case in point: when Mencia's show debuted two years ago, it was the second most popular show on Comedy Central, behind only South Park. It beat out The Daily Show and Colbert Report.

Whereas Daily Show and Colbert thrive on being the thinking man's funny, Mencia's low brow schtick has easily outpaced his colleagues.

Mencia may have taken the L on the comic circuit, but that's about it. His live shows will continue to sell out. His television show will continue to do well in the ratings. Mencia is a lowest-common denominator comic to begin with, and his brand is nothing that would appeal to comic snobs. He doesn't care either way.

Meanwhile, Rogan will continue to host UFC cable tv filler and whatever other frat boy side gig he can muster. Rogan recently wrote on his blog that his agent dropped him. He also admitted that he was fortunate enough to get involved in the beef at a point when he is established in his career. If he was a beginning comic, this would have ruined him.

It's to Rogan's credit that he is playing up the beef, in hopes that it will get his name out there. In that sense, he's taken a few pages from the hip-hop handbook. Rule No. 187 - Beef is always good for business.

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