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Interview: Alonzo Bodden’s comedy is cynically good natured

By Daniel Araya on October 22, 2017




Alonzo’s material is cynically good natured. Well, the older he gets, the less good natured it’s gonna be. “What can I say? The stupid out there is wearing the man down.”

Bodden, who won Season 3 on NBC’s Last Comic Standing, is a regular on NPR’s Wait Wait…Don’t Tell M and Comedy Congress, as well as being a panelist on the Game Show Network’s Mind of a Man. In 2011, he starred in the comedy special Who’s Paying Attention on Showtime, released a DVD, and hosts a podcast of the same name. That same year, he was a panelist on the syndicated show Inside the Vault and voiced the Thunderon in the Power Rangers movie.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Apt613: Hey Alonzo your resume is incredible, did you ever think your love for standup would grow to such heights?

Alonzo Bodden: I started standup in ’93, I had no idea it would become this. I started out in LA because I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to.

Wait, why aren’t you supposed to start out in LA?

Because it’s a big city, it’s big time. Generally people will work out in a smaller city and then you head to LA or New York. But even now it was a great education because I was working with the best in the business. When I started out I was a doorman at the Laugh Factory and would go up whenever someone didn’t show up. So any given night I might be working with George Wallace, Dom Irrera, Chris Rock or whoever was walking through.

You were performing with them when you started out?

They would be doing a showcase lineup, where there might be eight comics on a show and yeah I’d be one of the eight. You learned fast, I’m not saying I was doing the same material as them because I was two years and they were… George Wallace. You learned, it’s like playing sports if you played with the best you learn much faster.

How do you restart the crowd to accept you coming on stage after a celebrity has performed?

I had a great lesson from George Lopez. We were at the Laugh Factory one night and Rodney Dangerfield walked in. Rodney lived beside the Hollywood Hills and he would just drop in and do fifteen minutes or whatever. When Rodney got off stage a comic came on after him and spoke about Rodney this and Rodney that and she was dying. Lopez looked at me and he said listen you follow a superstar you don’t need to mention them because the crowd already knows who they are. You need to be you. My thing became bringing my own energy and my own laughs.

That’s crazy, Sugar Sammy said that a part of his success was authenticity. Remaining who he was at all stages of his life.

Yeah every comic is telling their truth. That’s what makes you an individual. I think when we start out then we just go for the laughs. We go through periods right? The early part of our careers is the bodily function phase, then we go through the inappropriate dating phase, and then you develop a voice. Once you develop confidence you start finding your voice and then that changes. When I was on Last Comic Standing I was talking about personal experiences, about my family, travelling. Now my act is mostly social commentary.

Who were the comics that you grew up with?

That’s great that you asked that, we’re working on a thing now. Back in the early 2000s we had a club in LA called Dublin’s. Big Irish bar on Sunset Boulevard, we did a Tuesday night show there. It was sort of a professional open mic, a bunch of comics that were doing good work but none of us had popped yet. Every Tuesday night it was Dane Cook, Ralphie May, Craig Robinson, Ken Jong, Tammy Pescatelli, Sebastien and myself. We were all there and it was just a really creative place for us. Now we’re talking about doing a reunion because we lost Ralphie May a few weeks ago. It was a creative time, it was a fun time, we were learning and becoming who we are.

Different groups of comics have a place and a time where it happened. Where the magic happened. Dublin’s was ours but I’m sure there’s another group of comics is doing something creative and lot of fun and ten years from now we’ll know who they are.

The craziest thing about standup to me is that it’s this moment happening in one place, in one room out of the whole world. No other person in the world can be experiencing that moment, and if you’re not there you literally miss out.

Yeah that was a time for us that you couldn’t duplicate. When you look at guys like Leno and Seinfeld talk about the Improv in New York in the late 70s or guys like Dice and Sam Kinison. They were all in the Comedy Store in the 80s. Different groups of comics have a place and a time where it happened. Where the magic happened. Dublin’s was ours but I’m sure there’s another group of comics is doing something creative and lot of fun and ten years from now we’ll know who they are.

Jesus. Do you think It’s Mark Normand and Joe List? I’m just thinking of the New York Comics I’m listening to on Robert Kelly’s You Know What Dude Podcast.

Oh New York is hot right now, New York is where comedy is right now. I moved to New York in the early 2000s, the Late Night Shows moved to New York. Guys like Louis C.K., Chris Rock, Amy Schumer… In the 90s it was LA because they were making sitcoms and things like that, but I would say now it’s New York.

I watched you do a guest spot at JFL’s Nasty show, you went on after Brad Williams and before Ralphie May that was a magical night.

I met Ralphie in the 90s. We had both just opened for Jay Mohr. My favorite memory of Ralphie was on Hallowe’en. Ralphie showed up in a yellow superhero costume like a superman outfit. It was a thing all night, we were all like, “Who is Ralphie May saving!?” That was the best. Another thing! Ralphie was famous for these barbecues, Ralphie would get a permit and close the street. Ralphie had a petting zoo! You’d be eating corn beside goats and ponies for example! On stage he was such a killer. He was hilarious, fearless and offstage he was generous, he helped a lot of young comics.

Hey Alonzo thank you so much for doing this, that was beautiful and I’ll be at the show October 24–25 at Centrepointe Theatre.

We’re going to be having a great time, Ottawa has given me one of my best friends and favourite comics! Jeremy Hotz, I love Hotz.

Alonzo Bodden is performing in the Just For Laughs Canadian Comedy Tour hosted by Sammy Sugar at Centrepointe Theatre (101 Centrepointe Drive) from October 24–25 at 7:30pm. Tickets cost $56.50 online.

Accessibility: The venue has wheelchair spaces and adjacent companion seats, as well as special seating for patrons with visual, auditory or mobility impairments. Centrepointe Theatre is also equipped with an infrared audio receiver system to assist patrons with hearing impairments. All washrooms are accessible. Exterior doors are equipped with automated openers.