by Kevin Allman
Turns out the Krewe of Orpheus isn't the only organization to invite, then uninvite comic Carlos Mencia. Just last month, Mencia was scheduled to perform at a benefit for the Edison Language Academy, a K-5 Spanish immersion public school in Santa Monica, Calif. -- only to have the invite rescinded a few days before the benefit, forcing organizers to return donations.
Who objected to Mencia this time? Parents and Latino groups. As Latina magazine reported:
Officials decided to nix the concert, originally scheduled for this Sunday at Edison Language Academy in Santa Monica, after the Association of Mexican American Educators (AMAE) and parents objected to Mencias penchant for racial slurs and jokes. A self-described equal opportunity offender, the Honduran stand-up comedian has been known to poke fun at ethnic stereotypes, immigrants and disabilities.
So what finally made school officials pull the plug on the show? A section of the California Penal Code that states it shall punish anyone who uses offensive words and provokes a violent reaction on school grounds.
We want to teach cultural awareness, said School Board member Oscar de la Torre, and having any event that can be considered offensive is a problem we dont want to take on."....
De la Torre, who heads the Pico Youth and Family Center, said he was taken aback when he viewed Mencias routine on YouTube.
At first I was telling people, Whats the big deal? Its comedy, de la Torre said.
But he has an almost violent attitude towards the Muslim community, he tells inappropriate jokes about disabled people and he uses put-downs to make people comfortable in racism."
Former standup comic Steve Stajich editorialized on Edison's decision in the Santa Monica Mirror:
An educators group planned on picketing the event, but it just as easily could have been picketed by anyone who has experienced fatigue watching lame material and racial button-pushing alleged to be comedy.... Santa Monica should feel good about rejecting Mencia because theres no imperative to embrace banality that seeks to defend itself as controversial.....
But it does mean that organizations looking to raise funds can make a decision about entertainment and then, in reviewing the work of the artist involved, change their minds. And it most definitely has nothing whatsoever to do with censorship. As for taste, you cant impose standards there, either. But you can feel good about demonstrating that you have some.
Meanwhile, Mencia fans who are disappointed by Orpheus' decision will have a chance to see the comedian in May, when he comes to Biloxi's Imperial Palace Casino Resort & Spa for a two-night stand. Tickets range from $45-$60.